Science

‘Vanload’ of Amazon plastic waste is dumped in oceans every 70 minutes

A van load of Amazon plastic packaging is dumped in oceans every 70 minutes and that includes enough air pillows to wrap around the Earth 500 times, study reveals.

Marine conservation charity Oceana published a new report investigating the amount of waste the retail giant and its sellers generate each year around the world.

They found Amazon has a ‘disturbingly large’ plastic waste footprint, including 211,000 tonnes of plastic packaging for the seven billion items sold worldwide.

Amazon disputes the figures from Oceana, claiming they ‘dramatically miscalculated’ the firms use of plastic, exaggerating it by over 350 per cent. 

The firm says Oceana used ‘flawed methodology’ and that Amazon used ‘about a quarter of the plastic packaging estimated by Oceana’s report.’

Oceana called on Amazon to be fully transparent about its plastic footprint and report on it on a regular basis and doing all it can to eliminate plastic packaging. 

Marine conservation charity Oceana published a new report investigating the amount of waste the retail giant and its sellers generate each year around the world

The report is based on an analysis of e-commerce packaging data combined with the findings of a recent study by the University of Toronto that found growth in plastic waste exceeds efforts in place to mitigate plastic pollution.

The report found that Amazon generated 465 million pounds of plastic packaging waste last year including air pillows, bubble wrap and other packaging items.

These items were added to the approximately seven billion Amazon or Amazon seller packages delivered in 2019, according to news reports.

Amazon said the report relies on flawed estimated that are based on comparing Amazon’s share of online sales to the amount of plastic used in a certain area. 

Adding that the methodology they use ‘significantly misstates’ its level of plastic packaging use and states the highest rather than middle or low-point in a range.  

Oceana says Amazon customers want the firm to take plastic packaging more seriously, adding that a survey of 5,000 customers found 86 per cent were concerned about plastic pollution and its impact on the ocean. 

Marine debris that was washed ashore covers a beach on Laysan Island in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Oceana found Amazon has a 'disturbingly large' plastic waste footprint, including 211,000 tonnes of plastic packaging

Marine debris that was washed ashore covers a beach on Laysan Island in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Oceana found Amazon has a ‘disturbingly large’ plastic waste footprint, including 211,000 tonnes of plastic packaging

Amazon disputes the figures from Oceana, claiming they 'dramatically miscalculated' the firms use of plastic, exaggerating it by over 350 per cent

Amazon disputes the figures from Oceana, claiming they ‘dramatically miscalculated’ the firms use of plastic, exaggerating it by over 350 per cent

The report found that Amazon’s estimated plastic packaging waste, in the form of air pillows alone, would circle the Earth more than 500 times.

The study estimates that up to 22.44 million pounds of Amazon’s plastic packaging waste entered and polluted the world’s freshwater and marine ecosystems in 2019.

An Oceana spokesperson says this is the equivalent of dumping a delivery van payload of plastic into the oceans every 70 minutes.

‘The amount of plastic waste generated by the company is staggering and growing at a frightening rate,’ noted Oceana’s Senior Vice President, Matt Littlejohn. 

He said plastic packaging and waste generated by Amazon’s packages is ‘mostly destined, not for recycling, but for landfill, the incinerator or the environment’. 

‘It’s time for Amazon to listen to its customers, who, according to recent surveys want plastic-free alternatives, and make real commitments to reduce its plastic footprint,’ Littlejohn added. 

Oceana says amazon appears to be prioritising the increased use of flexible packaging made of plastic over the need to protect climate and the environment.

Amazon said the report applied a flawed model on plastic waste entering freshwater and marine ecosystems to ‘make their inaccurate and misleading claims’.

‘Since 2015, we have reduced the weight of outbound packaging by more than a third, and eliminated almost one million tons of packaging material,’ the firm said.

‘As a founding member of The Climate Pledge, Amazon is committed to protecting the planet and continues to welcome informed, constructive dialogue with NGOs and others on these issues.’ 

Plastics are on the seafloor in the deepest parts of the ocean and have even been found in the ocean breeze. This deep-sea crab carrying a single-use plastic container demonstrates just how much of a threat plastic has become even in the darkest depths of our oceans

Plastics are on the seafloor in the deepest parts of the ocean and have even been found in the ocean breeze. This deep-sea crab carrying a single-use plastic container demonstrates just how much of a threat plastic has become even in the darkest depths of our oceans

The marine charity claims Amazon has already shown it can rapidly reduce plastic packaging on a very large scale. 

‘After India passed a law to fight plastic pollution, Amazon eliminated plastic packaging from fulfilment centres in India and has introduced a paper-based lightweight mailer that it reports has been used 100 million times,’ they said.

‘Amazon has failed to apply these clear steps forward on a company-wide level to solve its plastic problem. ‘

Plastic is a major source of pollution and is devastating the world’s oceans, with recent studies estimating 90 per cent of all seabirds and half of sea turtles have ingested plastic at some point in their life. 

Amazon said the report applied a flawed model on plastic waste entering freshwater and marine ecosystems to 'make their inaccurate and misleading claims'

Amazon said the report applied a flawed model on plastic waste entering freshwater and marine ecosystems to ‘make their inaccurate and misleading claims’

Sea turtles and other ocean animals mistake the kind of plastic used by Amazon as food which can ultimately prove fatal. 

Eighty-eight per cent of animals found to have swallowed or have been entangled in plastic, according to recent Oceana study, were species listed as endangered or threatened with extinction under the Endangered Species Act. 

The report discloses that the type of plastic often used in packaging by Amazon, referred to as plastic film, is effectively not recycled, despite the company’s claims of recyclability. 

Most municipal curbside recycling programs in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States do not accept this kind of plastic. 

Plastic is a major source of pollution and is devastating the world's oceans, with recent studies estimating 90 per cent of all seabirds and half of sea turtles have ingested plastic at some point in their life

Plastic is a major source of pollution and is devastating the world’s oceans, with recent studies estimating 90 per cent of all seabirds and half of sea turtles have ingested plastic at some point in their life 

Jellyfish and plastic floating in the Aeolian Sea off of Sicily, Italy. A recent review found that more than 900 species have ingested or become entangled in plastic, from zooplankton at the bottom of the ocean food web, to seabirds at the top of it

Jellyfish and plastic floating in the Aeolian Sea off of Sicily, Italy. A recent review found that more than 900 species have ingested or become entangled in plastic, from zooplankton at the bottom of the ocean food web, to seabirds at the top of it

According to studies, only four per cent of residential polyethylene plastic film in the United States was recycled as of 2014. 

An Amazon spokesperson said: ‘We share Oceana’s ambition to protect and restore the world’s oceans, and we support the reduced use of plastics. 

‘However, Oceana has dramatically miscalculated Amazon’s use of plastic and exaggerated it by over 350%—we use about a quarter of the plastic packaging estimated by Oceana’s report. 

‘Since 2015, we have reduced the weight of outbound packaging by more than a third, and eliminated almost one million tons of packaging material. 

‘As a founding member of The Climate Pledge, Amazon is committed to protecting the planet and continues to welcome informed, constructive dialogue with NGOs and others on these issues.’

HOW DOES PLASTIC KILL TURTLES?

Sea turtles live in the ocean and feed on vegetation and algae floating in the waters. 

Unfortunately, many pieces of litter discarded by humans pollute these waters and resemble food. 

The sea turtles mistake them for nutrition and consume them. 

This plastic then enters their digestive tract and causes havoc to the animal’s innards. 

A study in 2018 found eating a single piece of plastic increases the turtles chance of death. 

Researchers found there it caused a one in five chance of death – rising to 50 per cent for 14 pieces.

Turtles have a digestive tract which means they are physically incapable of regurgitation. 

Once something has been eaten, it stays in the animal unless it can be defecated. 

Once inside the animal, if a piece of plastic covers an organ or blocks a key canal, it can create a fatal blockage.

Plastic blockages stopping the passing of food or faeces can kill turtles, but harder pieces can also inflict fatal internal injuries.


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