Amazon, which has disrupted a host of industries and garnered controversy with its facial recognition software, is now causing problems for recycling centers.
The online retail behemoth has reportedly been reducing the portion of shipments it puts in cardboard boxes in favor of lighter plastic mailers over the past year, which allows it to pack more packages into trucks and planes.
However, according to a Washington Post report, environmental activists and waste experts have said the plastic mailers are having a negative effect.
“That Amazon packaging suffers from the same problems as plastic bags, which are not sortable in our recycling system and get caught in the machinery,” Lisa Sepanski, project manager for King County Solid Waste Division, which oversees recycling in King County, Wash., where Amazon is based, told the Post. “It takes labor to cut them out. They have to stop the machinery.”
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Amazon now accounts for about half of all e-commerce in the United States, according to 2018 analysis by research firm eMarketer, so it’s the primary source of the plastic containers. Other companies, including Target, also use them.
The plastic mailers are responsible for several problems, the Post added. In general, they should be recycled separately, but if they do end up in the normal recycling stream, they prevent larger bundles of materials from being recycled by gumming up the system, the report said.
Waste experts consulted by the publication noted that plastic can be better for the environment since they take up less space, thereby making shipping more efficient. Fewer greenhouse gases are emitted in the production and use of plastic film, a senior environmental policy analyst told the Post.
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Since the plastic mailers also have paper address labels affixed to them, that creates a separate issue since the label must be removed before the mailer can be recycled with other plastic.
“We are continually working to improve our packaging and recycling options, and have reduced packaging waste by more than 20 percent globally in 2018,” an Amazon spokesperson told the Post.
Fox News has reached out to Amazon for further comment on this story.