RELEASE: Call for Amazon to eliminate plastic packaging ahead of annual meeting

Media Contacts
Pam Clough

Advocate, Environment Washington Research & Policy Center


SEATTLE — Advocates from Environment Washington Research & Policy Center, WASHPIRG Students and Oceana gathered outside Amazon headquarters in Seattle on Wednesday to call on the e-commerce company to reduce plastic packaging in its U.S. shipments, ahead of the company’s annual shareholder meeting. Organizers and volunteers held signs, delivered petitions with 41,569 signatures and asked employees to pledge to vote “yes” on a shareholder vote expected May 24 that would require Amazon to develop a plan to reduce plastic waste. During the event, organizers also presented research about how little of Amazon’s plastic shipping materials gets recycled. 

“Nothing we use for a few minutes should be allowed to pollute our environment for hundreds of years,” said Pam Clough, advocate with Environment Washington Research & Policy Center. “For a bird, fish or whale, it’s easy to mistake a small piece of plastic for food—especially when there are millions of pieces of plastic floating in our rivers and ocean. Too often, ingesting this plastic is fatal for wildlife. To protect our wildlife from these dangers, we need major corporations such as Amazon to reduce the amount of plastic used in the first place.”

According to an Oceana report from December, Amazon generated 709 million pounds of plastic packaging waste in 2021, up 18% from the prior year. With the continued growth of online shopping, plastic packaging from e-commerce is estimated to double by 2026

“Nearly every time we buy something online, we’re confronted with a pile of plastic mailing envelopes, air pillows, bubble wrap and foam,” said Clough. “We discard almost all of that plastic packaging immediately after opening a package, then it quickly adds to our plastic waste crisis.” 

Most single-use plastic packaging used for online purchases is not recycled, but rather goes to landfills, burns in incinerators or breaks into small pieces in nature. Microplastics have even been found nearly every corner of the globe, as well as human bodies, where they may pose health risks.

Amazon claims on its website that many of their packaging items are widely recyclable, either through curbside recycling programs or store drop-off. Their plastic mailing envelopes and air pillows come labeled with “chasing arrows” recycling symbols, the words “Store Drop Off” and the website url  

“The idea is that you can recycle the plastic items by going to the website, typing in your ZIP code and finding a recycling drop-off location near you. We wanted to see if this would really work.” said Bailey Cunningham, a student coordinator with WashPIRG Students. 

Volunteers with the Student PIRGs put a tracking device in five Amazon plastic mailing envelopes or air pillows and put each of them in a different store drop-off recycling take-back bin in five stores across Los Angeles. What they found is that 2 of the 5 plastic mailing envelopes ended up in landfills. The rest went to out-of-state or out-of-country recycling centers. 

“This small-scale experiment shows that the store drop-off system for recycling plastic film is, as we’ve suspected, failing,” said Cunningham. “Most likely, the material is not getting recycled, because the market really doesn’t exist for recycling plastic film. We can’t recycle our way out of the plastic waste crisis. Corporations need to just produce less plastic.” 

Much of the public agrees that Amazon should cut down on plastic from its U.S. shipments. Since February, Environment Washington Research & Policy Center and WashPIRG Students have turned in petitions bearing over 138,500 signatures to Amazon headquarters calling on the company to make that change. 

“Amazon has already committed to stop using single-use plastic in shipments within Germany and India. Biodegradable alternatives to single-use plastic film are available now. So there’s no excuse for the continued use of plastic packaging in the U.S.” said Clough.