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Amazon has made a significant effort to reduce plastic waste by eliminating 95% of the plastic air pillows used in its packaging for North American shipping, equating to nearly 15 billion pillows annually. The company has opted to replace these plastic pillows with recycled paper, which is largely curbside recyclable. This announcement marks Amazon’s largest plastic packaging reduction effort to date in North America as part of its ongoing commitment to sustainability. Pat Lindner, Amazon’s vice president of mechatronics and sustainable packaging, stated that the company is working towards completely removing plastic packaging in North America by the end of the year.

Environmental nonprofit Oceana has applauded Amazon’s decision to reduce its use of plastic pillows but has urged the company to continue moving towards more sustainable packaging solutions. Oceana’s senior vice president, Matt Littlejohn, emphasized the importance of Amazon fulfilling its commitment to transitioning its fulfillment centers in North America away from plastic. The organization estimates that Amazon produced 208 million pounds of plastic packaging in the U.S. in 2022, which, if converted into air pillows, could wrap around the Earth more than 200 times, highlighting the environmental impact of plastic waste.

The company’s initiative to replace plastic air pillows with recycled paper aligns with its broader sustainability goals and commitment to reducing plastic waste. Amazon is now also planning to replace its blue-and-white plastic mailers with a paper alternative, further reducing its reliance on non-recyclable materials. Despite facing shareholder proposals and calls to explore further ways to reduce its plastic footprint, Amazon has taken proactive steps towards sustainable packaging solutions, which have started to show results. In 2022, the company reported an 11.6% decrease in single-use plastic delivery packaging.

Amazon’s efforts to reduce plastic use extend beyond North America, with significant progress made in Europe where the company has transitioned to 100% recyclable paper and cardboard packaging for deliveries. The European Union’s initiatives to ban disposable plastics in packaging have likely influenced Amazon’s decision to implement more sustainable practices in the region. In the U.S., Amazon has started replacing plastic packaging with recyclable paper options, starting with a fulfillment center in Ohio in October 2023. The company’s commitment to sustainability and reducing its environmental impact is evident in these strategic changes in its packaging materials.

Overall, Amazon’s shift away from plastic air pillows and towards recycled paper packaging represents a significant step towards sustainability and reducing plastic waste in its shipping operations. The company’s dedication to innovation and scaling recyclable materials underscores its commitment to environmental stewardship. As Amazon continues to prioritize sustainable packaging solutions and work towards eliminating plastic packaging in North America, it sets a positive example for other companies looking to enhance their environmental practices and reduce their carbon footprint.

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