Yes, ordering from Amazon is convenient. But within that convenience lies a significant cost to the planet: excess plastic waste.
From products that are individually wrapped in plastic to the air bubble cushion packs and air bubble envelopes, Amazon orders often contain an exorbitant amount of single-use plastic. And it’s no wonder—plastic is extremely cheap and consumers are accepting it. But there are ways to limit the plastic in your Amazon boxes, and it’s relatively simple to do.
But first, let’s talk about why.
Of the 300 million tons of plastic produced annually, upwards of 50 percent of that plastic is used just once, and then thrown away. And it’s estimated that 26 percent of the plastic produced globally is used for packaging (like that unnecessary plastic you find in your Amazon shipments). 26 percent. Madness!
The Problem With Plastic
When you toss plastic into the trash, it’s sent to a landfill where it will remain for hundreds of years, outliving several generations of human beings. That in itself is horrifying when you consider the sheer quantity of plastic waste building up in our world.
But worse yet, while lingering in the landfill, that plastic waste can be eaten by birds who think it’s food. When their bellies become filled with plastic instead of food, the birds ultimately starve to death—also spreading the plastic waste outside of the landfills and into our greater ecosystem (including the ocean).
Worse yet, plastic never fully biodegrades. It just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic that are eventually ingested by marine life. And this is only a little sliver of the issue.
Needless to say, we can all be doing our planet a service that future generations will appreciate by reducing our plastic waste and eliminating (to the best of our abilities) single-use plastic.
How To Reduce Plastic Packaging In Your Amazon Orders
Don’t want to give up the convenience of shopping on Amazon.com but you do want to voice your opinion and ask that they use less plastic in your orders? You can make your choices known to Amazon by following these steps:
1. Call Amazon at 888-280-4331 and say “Plastic Packaging.” Then ask the representative to do the following:
- Flag your account and others in your household (they go by email address) with your packaging preference of “no plastic.”
- There’s a section where the representative can report “poor packaging or not enough padding.” In that area, they can make a note that plastic packaging damages the environment, isn’t wanted and that you’d like them to please use zero/minimal packaging.
- They can also enter general feedback for areas of improvement. This gets escalated to a specialist team and will bring the plastic issue to their attention.
2. When you place an order, there is a section to select the delivery address. Click on “add delivery instructions.” Then type “Please use only environmentally friendly packaging—zero plastic whenever possible. Thank You.” This will now be a permanent delivery instruction for everything you order.
Don’t Stop There…
Of course, this won’t be a perfect solution for removing all the plastic from your orders, so it’s important to shop mindfully. Here are a few of other ways you can be kinder to the Earth with your Amazon orders:
- Plan ahead and ship slower. For example, if you don’t need something in one day or two (how many times do we actually need that?!), choose a slower delivery option. Amazon flies planes and drives big delivery trucks that are mostly empty just to fulfill their delivery guarantee of “tomorrow.” Check out this great video about the consequences of that from the University of California Irvine and Vox.
- Group your order into as few shipments as possible. You can do this during checkout.
- When you’re able to group orders with friends, do it! Make a request to group your own orders together. Note that sometimes Amazon will still separate orders into several packages based on which distribution center your order is coming from, but it’s still worthwhile to make the requests.
Grocery Shopping Through Amazon?
Now that Amazon owns Whole Foods Market, they offer convenient grocery delivery for online orders. This service is extremely helpful to many—especially if you’re a busy mama, shopping for elderly family from afar, stuck at home amidst a pandemic—you get the picture.
Unfortunately, when you order frozen or refrigerated items, they deliver those cold items in plastic bubble-wrap-style bags.
Well, guess what?
A reader let us know that you can text your shopper right after you place your order and request that they don’t use plastic bags for your order. Boom—planet helped! And piles of single-use plastic spared.
Make Your Voice Heard
Even though there’s no way to promise that Amazon will use less plastic (as of now), it’s important for them to hear your feedback so that they know what their customers want. The landfills are far too full of plastic Amazon shipping envelopes and there’s no way to recycle them (even though recycling instructions are printed on the envelopes).
The more Amazon hears from us, the more likely they are to change. So…please do your part and pass it on!
Do You Want to Know More About Single-Use Plastic?
- Single-Use Plastic Kills 100 Million Mammals Every Year
- Bulk Bins vs Packaged (The Power of Buying in Bulk)
- 12 Way To Become a More Eco-Friendly Vegan
Article by Allison Rivers Samson and Michelle Cehn for World of Vegan. Allison works to protect our planet and is the co-founder of the Plastic Waste Reduction Coalition and The 12 Day Dairy Detox. Cover photo from Canva.com. Please note that this article contains affiliate links that support our work at World of Vegan!