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Amazon eliminates single-use plastic in packaging in India

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Last year, Amazon pledged to remove all single-use plastic from its packaging in India by June 2020. On June 27, it announced that it had indeed successfully fulfilled its pledge, replacing all bubble wrap with paper cushions, plastic tape with biodegradable paper tape, and more at its more than 50 distribution centers across the South Asian county. While Amazon concedes that there is still some plastic left in its packaging, all of it is recyclable.

In addition to eliminating single-use plastics in its packaging, Amazon India has significantly stepped up its efforts on Packaging-Free Shipping (FPS). As of now, more than 40% of its orders in India use FPS, delivering orders without additional packaging or with significantly reduced packaging.

This is an incredible and important accomplishment for Amazon. Using less plastic means not only reducing the greenhouse gas emissions needed to produce plastic, but also making our ecosystems more habitable for wildlife and more valuable to humans by eliminating destructive plastic waste.

Plastic pollution
Source: South Carolina Aquarium

It is also particularly notable for India, which does not yet have a well-organized system for dealing with plastic waste, leading to widespread littering and pollution across the country. India alone generates nearly 26,000 tonnes of plastic waste per day.

In response to this growing challenge, in October 2019, Indian Prime Minister Modi urged the nation’s citizens and institutions to end the usage of single-use plastic by 2022. Amazon’s milestone is one major step toward that goal.

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I’m not a huge fan of everything Amazon does or what it represents in today’s world. No company, especially one motivated primarily by shareholder profit, should have as much power and influence over the world as it does.

But I also know that its incredible influence means that, whether we like it or not, Amazon will almost certainly be a vital part of our response to climate change and ecological destruction in the coming decades, as with many of our most pressing challenges as a species. That reach can be an incredibly potent tool for change, as we’ve seen with single-use plastic India. These accomplishments are worthy of our gratitude.

But they also beg another question: If it works in India, why not elsewhere? When will this model become the norm in Europe, the United States, and all across the world?

More importantly, what can we as consumers and citizens do to make that happen as quickly as possible?


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Peter Schulte

Peter Schulte is the founder and editor of Kindling. Peter is also Senior Digital Engagement Associate for the Pacific Institute and the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, connecting businesses to sustainable water practices. Peter holds a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A. in Sustainable Systems from Pinchot University. He lives in Bellingham, WA, USA with his wife, son, and cat.

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