Pressure on e-commerce to reduce plastics use

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Public opinion research sponsored by Oceana, an international ocean conservation organization, has showed that Amazon customers are buying more online due to the Covid-19 global pandemic, but are also concerned about plastic pollution and its effect on the oceans, with many wanting online retailers to give them plastic-free packaging choices.

The survey found that support was highest among Amazon’s best customers – Prime members – and those who shop most often online. Oceana has subsequently announced it is launching a campaign calling on Amazon to offer its customers plastic-free packaging choices.

“Jeff Bezos and Amazon say they are obsessed with meeting the needs of their customers. It’s clear from the results of our survey that what Amazon customers want is for the company to do the right thing and offer plastic-free options at checkout,” said Matt Littlejohn, senior vice president of Oceana. “Amazon can make a difference for its customers and the oceans by doing this: this is a company that, according to recent news reports, shipped several billion packages in 2019, many packed with plastic.”

Amazon’s packaging and materials lab have created lightweight plastic-free packaging, including a new mailer, that the company reports has been used 100 million times. “Amazon has the technical ability, with its fulfillment centers, to offer plastic-free alternatives to its customers, reduce plastic and help protect the oceans and environment,” said former Amazon executive and consultant Rachel Johnson Greer. “It is really a question of will.”

YouGov polled 1,286 individuals in the USA as part of its omnibus survey on behalf of Oceana with 78% reporting shopping on Amazon. The survey found that 85% of Amazon customers are concerned about plastic pollution, 71% would use a plastic-free choice/alternative packaging if offered, 53% of Amazon customers surveyed reported buying more online because of Covid-19 and 43% reported that they were concerned by the extra plastic packaging they are receiving due to the acceleration of online shopping related to the pandemic.

The concern and support were even higher among those who report being Amazon Prime members, with 86% of this group expressing concern about plastic pollution and 73% agreeing that they would use a plastic-free choice/alternative packaging if offered.

Prime customers who reported buying most often online (more than once a week) were the most concerned (89%) about plastic pollution. Oceana also sponsored surveys of consumers in the UK (with YouGov) and in Canada (with Abacus Data) that showed similar and, in some cases, stronger concern about plastic pollution and support for plastic-free choices.

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