It’s no secret that Amazon is one of the behemoths of pollution today. The corporation has built an online retail empire with all the waste that entails. In 2021 alone, the company generated a staggering 71.54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
But the tides may be changing, Grist reports, at least in one area. In Amazon’s latest sustainability report in July, the company says it used 86,000 metric tons of plastic in 2022, a 12% decrease from 2021.
The company said it accomplished this by using more paper-based packaging and by shipping more products in their original packaging without unnecessary Amazon branded packaging. The company also said it would begin phasing out its padded blue and white plastic envelopes and replace them with recyclable alternatives.
Cutting back on plastic will have major environmental benefits. Plastic is making its way to oceans and is often deadly to marine animals. Reducing plastic production also reduces carbon emissions, as plastic is made out of fossil fuels. And it often contains harmful chemicals. The U.S. recycling rate for plastics is currently at a meager five percent.
Years of advocacy paved the way for this change, with shareholder advocacy groups filing multiple resolutions demanding transparency from Amazon on its plastic usage and demanding that it cut back by one third by 2030. One resolution received support from almost half of Amazon’s shareholders.
Amazon’s carbon footprint is trending in the right direction this year as well, with a seven percent decrease from the output in 2021. But while Amazon’s plastic and carbon pollution have decreased over the past year, the numbers are still colossal. The company used 86,000 metric tons of plastic and emitted 71.3 million metric tons of carbon in 2022.
What’s more is that Amazon’s 2022 report does not account for orders shipped from third-party sellers, and it remains unclear what percentage of Amazon’s orders are from third parties.
But the latest report is a step in the right direction, and advocates continue to call for greater transparency and hold Amazon accountable to its pledges.