Amazon criticized for new non-recyclable packaging

If you’re a bit of an Amazon shopaholic, you might have noticed that the online marketplace started swapping some of its cardboard boxes in the United Kingdom for non-recyclable plastic mailers. This change has led environmental groups and customers to publicly criticize Amazon, who explains that the lightweight packaging allows it to fit more parcels in its trucks and planes.

It’s estimated that Amazon ships between 4-5 billion parcels a year worldwide. While the cardboard boxes are easily recyclable in curbside bins, Amazon’s Prime-branded envelope — offered to customers who pay a premium for expedited delivery — is lined with bubble wrap and is non-recyclable. Adrian Fletcher, a customer from Glasgow, Scotland, says the move is a “major step backwards” for the world’s largest online retailer. He completes much of his shopping on the platform as his husband is disabled. And while he diligently recycles packaging, he tells the Guardian that he “can’t [with] these.” Requests to deliver with non-plastic mailers have “[fallen] on deaf ears,” Fletcher adds.

Environmentally conscious shoppers have also been complaining about Amazon’s use of plastic on Twitter:

In February, the Washington Post reported that Amazon’s plastic films were “jamming up” recycling centres in the US as customers were mistakenly disposing of them in recycling bins. The non-recyclable plastic mailers not only have to be sorted separately but when accidentally tossed into the usual recycling system, they’ll also stall other materials from undergoing the process, the Post described.

While the plastic envelopes aren’t as easily recyclable, some waste experts believe there’s a silver lining to downsizing bulky parcels. The new mailers take up less space in delivery vehicles, said David Allaway, a senior policy analyst at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Materials Management Program, and in turn reduce the consumption of petroleum and greenhouse gases being emitted.

What are your thoughts on the world’s largest retailer moving towards non-recyclable packaging? Share your thoughts below or on social media.


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