Report Says Amazon Responsible for 23.5 Million Pounds Of Plastic Entering Our Water Ecosystems

Last year, at this time, I was astonished to report on the massive plastic footprint that online retail giant Amazon is estimated to have, per a report from Oceana. Despite extensive media coverage and outrage, things don’t appear to have improved one year later.

In a new report by Oceana, it is estimated that Amazon was responsible for generating nearly 600 million pounds of plastic packaging waste in 2020 – an increase of nearly 30% year over year. They further estimate that 23.5 million pounds (up 1.5 million year over year) of that is ending up in our marine and freshwater ecosystems, adding to the growing problems created by plastic pollution.

On the flip side, Amazon claims that Oceana’s data is flawed and that it overestimates the data by 300%, but they also did not provide alternative data.

It’s important to note that Oceana makes clear that since Amazon does not release data on its plastic footprint, their report relies on information available from industry analysts about the amount of plastic packaging used worldwide. They then simply associated Amazon’s share of the online retail market to come up with their estimates.

“We are using the best data available to us,” said Matt Littlejohn, Ocean’s Senior Vice President. “If Amazon was transparent, we would gladly use their data. Yes, they are using more non-plastic packaging, but they are also selling a ton more product. We understand people need Amazon. And so we’re hoping Amazon can fix this problem and become a leader in reducing plastic, which is really important for the oceans.”

An Amazon spokesperson released this statement: “Amazon shares Oceana’s ambition to protect the world’s oceans and respects their work but, for a second year, their calculations are seriously flawed. They have overestimated our plastics usage by more than 300%, and use outdated assumptions about the sources of plastic waste entering our oceans. The latest peer-reviewed scientific research finds that the majority of plastic waste that ends up in the ocean comes primarily from takeaway food and drink, and fishing activities. Amazon is making rapid progress in reducing or removing single-use plastics from packaging materials around the world. As a co-founder of The Climate Pledge, Amazon is committed to protecting the planet and achieving net-zero carbon by 2040. We continue to welcome informed, constructive dialogue with NGOs and others on these issues.”

Who to believe? Good question. We say dive into the report, which you can read in full HERE, and be sure to give Amazon a fair shake as well. We believe that it’s reasonable to ask them to do better – without question. But we all play a role in this. As our CEO, Julie Andersen, wrote last year on this issue:

“Plastic pollution is a systemic problem which means we all contribute to creating the problem. We are all a part of the same global community that has made and supported this global economic system. Producers who knowingly sell products that harm our health and environment is a problem. Consumers who knowingly buy products that are harmful is a problem. Governments who knowingly support products that their local communities cannot waste manage is a problem. How we solve it will require all of us to take responsibility for our actions.” Read her full article HERE.

We don’t have a detailed official response from Amazon yet, but we’ll share it as soon as we see one. For now, please have a look at this video from Oceana, showing the basics on their report:

Your Thoughts?

Have a suggestion on how you as a consumer be part of the solution to motivating retailers and manufacturers to reduce their plastic footprint? If so, share in a comment on one of our social media channels or via our contact page. In the coming days we’ll be gathering up all suggestions, doing a bit of research and publishing part two on this topic – showing you specific ways you can be part of the solution.


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