Amazon Is Ditching Plastic Packaging Abroad—but Using Even More in the U.S.

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In response to growing pressure to address the plastic pollution crisis, Amazon has been cutting down on plastic packaging. Last July, the company said it used 11.6 percent less plastic for all of its shipments globally in 2022, compared to 2021. Much of Amazon’s reductions took place in countries that have enacted — or threatened to enact — restrictions on certain types of plastic packaging. But the company’s progress may not extend to the U.S., which has not regulated plastic production on a federal level.

Amazon generated 208 million pounds of plastic packaging trash in the United States in 2022, about 10 percent more than the previous year, according to a new report from the nonprofit Oceana. This packaging includes Amazon’s ubiquitous blue-and-white mailers, as well as other pouches, bags, and plastic cushioning. If all of it were converted into plastic air pillows and laid end to end, Oceana estimates it would circle the Earth more than 200 times.

“The crisis is so significant that we need change now,” said Dana Miller, Oceana’s director of strategic initiatives and an author of the report.

Miller and her co-authors are calling on Amazon to stop using plastic packaging in the U.S., citing phaseouts in some of the company’s biggest overseas markets as evidence that such a transition is possible. Amazon has done “some pretty impressive things in Europe and India, but in the U.S. they are not making the same sort of commitments,” Miller added. “The company has made great progress, but it’s just not enough.”

To calculate Amazon’s U.S. plastics footprint, Oceana used market research on the amount of plastic consumed in 2022 by the American e-commerce industry — more than 800 million pounds — and multiplied that by Amazon’s share of the market, 30.5 percent. Oceana then made some downward revisions to account for Amazon’s publicly disclosed efforts to reduce plastic packaging. For instance, in 2022, Amazon said it replaced

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