In its latest news announcement, City to Sea has confirmed that it has joined 120+ organisations in sending a letter urging Amazon to take concrete steps to reduce its staggering plastic pollution detailed in a recent Oceana report.

City to Sea, the Bristol UK based not-for-profit that campaigns to stop plastic pollution at source, has joined a global coalition of environmental organisations and community groups from around the world in calling on to address the staggering amount of single-use plastic pollution it generates by shifting to plastic-free and reusable packaging. 

The coalition sent a letter urging Amazon’s outgoing and incoming CEOs, Jeff Bezos and Andy Jassy to take immediate steps to prevent the more than 465 million pounds of plastic packaging waste the company produces on an annual basis.

Why action is needed!

A December 2020 report by Oceana found that Amazon was responsible for adding more than 22 million pounds of this plastic pollution to the world’s oceans and waterways in 2019, alone. As serious as the statistics detailed in Oceana’s report are, the situation today is undoubtedly worse as Amazon’s net sales increased by 38% in 2020 due to a massive spike in sales driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The company refuses to disclose its plastic footprint and has yet to make real commitments to reduce its plastic use,” said Oceana’s Senior Vice President, Matt Littlejohn who noted that “based on what we currently know, the dramatic rise in sales in 2020 likely means that there was also a frightening jump in plastic packaging waste, which because so little is recycled, flooded our communities, landfills and – ultimately – our oceans and waterways.”

Oceana’s report notes that Amazon’s 2019 impact was the equivalent of dumping a delivery van’s worth of plastic into the oceans every 70 minutes. With at least 15 million metric tons of plastic waste entering our oceans each year, it’s no surprise that an estimated 90% of all seabirds and more than half of all sea turtles have ingested plastic. The plastic films used in Amazon packaging are often mistaken for food by sea turtles, which can prove fatal.

Amazon can act as major influencers

Although is currently a major plastic polluter, the letter signers note that Amazon is uniquely positioned to lead the e-commerce industry away from the disaster of single-use plastic and towards plastic-free, carbon neutral, zero-waste delivery systems. 

Amazon has already demonstrated the ability to rapidly reduce plastic packaging on a large scale. After the Indian government passed a law to address plastic pollution, Amazon India eliminated plastic packaging from its fulfilment centers and introduced a paper-based lightweight mailer that it reports has been used 100 million times. However, despite requests from its customers, Amazon has thus far failed to apply these clear steps forward on a company-wide level to solve its plastic pollution problem. 

Commenting City to Sea’s Policy Manager, Steve Hynd, added, “We know that plastic pollution has, in many ways, got worse during the pandemic. For companies like Amazon to become part of the solution rather than the problem we need two things from them. Firstly, we need them to be honest about the size of the plastic problem they have and how the pandemic has impacted that. Secondly, we need them to show leadership in transitioning away from single-use plastics to reduce their packaging footprint, to encourage reuse and finally to ensure as high a rates of recyclability as possible”. 

Global organisations unite to tackle the issue

The letter, signed by 122 organisations from around the globe including City to Sea, Beyond Plastics, Oceana, Changing Markets Foundation, Common Seas, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Greenpeace USA, Climate Reality Project,  Center for International Environmental Law, Clean Water Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, and The Story of Stuff calls on Amazon to improve transparency in its sustainability reporting and to:

  • Disclose the size of its plastic footprint in its annual sustainability reports, starting in 2021.
  • Commit to shifting to plastic-free packaging worldwide by 2025 with annual plastic packaging reduction targets of 25%.
  • Create strict plastic-free packaging requirements for all vendors and sellers in its marketplace worldwide by 2022.
  • Begin to shift to reusable packaging systems globally, and utilize zero-waste packaging systems, starting in 2021.

“Plastic is not only a problem for our oceans, it is also a major driver of the climate crisis,” said Dianna Cohen, CEO and Co-Founder of Plastic Pollution Coalition. “Plastic is made from a combination of chemicals and ethane – a byproduct of hydrofracked natural gas and releases greenhouse gases at every stage of its life cycle. In fact, if plastic were a country, it would be the world’s fifth largest greenhouse gas emitter.”