The following editorial originally appeared in The Seattle Time:
A shareholder resolution at Wednesday’s Amazon annual meeting would require the company to reduce plastic packaging.
Whether it garners more than the 35.5 percent a similar shareholder proposal earned last year doesn’t matter as much as the importance of keeping a focus on reducing plastics pollution.
Everyone who has received an Amazon delivery in a plastic bag knows it isn’t easy to properly dispose of it. Four click-throughs on a website printed on the package leads to a drop-off location.
To its credit, Amazon recognizes that plastics pollution is a global problem, and it is making moves to engineer better packaging and encouraging its vendors to do more as well.
A recent report by Oceana, an advocacy organization dedicated to ocean conservation, estimated that Amazon generated 600 million pounds of plastic packaging waste last year and that up to 23.5 million pounds of its plastic packaging entered the world’s marine ecosystems, an amount Amazon disputes.
Amazon is falling behind its peers, states the shareholder resolution. Unilever, a British consumer goods company, and IKEA, a Dutch-headquartered home furnishings conglomerate, along with at least 17 other public consumer goods companies pledge to reduce or eliminate plastic packaging.
As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy group, gives Amazon a “D-” for its efforts tackling plastic pollution. By comparison, Walmart and Target earned a “C+.”
The shareholder resolution requests that the Amazon board of directors issue a report describing how the company could reduce its plastics.
In its response, Amazon said the backers of the resolution overestimated its plastics use by 300 percent and relied on bad information about the sources of plastic waste in the world’s waters. “The latest peer-reviewed scientific research finds that the majority of plastic waste that ends up in the ocean comes primarily from takeaway food and drink containers, and fishing activities.”
Amazon does not disclose how much plastic packaging it uses.
The company said it has partnered with other manufacturers to reduce their use of plastics, and is making progress to significantly increase the recycled plastic used in its own packaging as well as reducing plastic film and single-use plastic.
“We are committed to protecting the planet and recognize the importance of reducing plastic waste,” states Amazon in its recommendation for shareholders to reject the proposal.
“It’s incredibly important to keep the conversation and awareness going,” said Sara Holzknecht, Washington field representative for Oceana.
It is good that advocates continue to bring attention to plastics pollution. It is good that Amazon understands that more ought to be done. It is up to all of us to be conscious of our shopping and recycling habits.