With a single sentence in an 82-page sustainability report, Amazon signaled a huge pivot away from plastic packaging.
The world's largest retailer revealed the company is doing away with its ubiquitous blue and white plastic mailer.
"We are phasing out padded bags containing plastics in favor of recyclable alternatives," the Seattle-based retail giant revealed on page 29 of the new report.
The move, obviously, will have a huge impact on the amount of plastic used by the company as Amazon used 85,916 metric tons (94,706 tons) of single-use plastic around the world to ship products to customers, the report states.
That equates to 189.4 million pounds of plastic each year.
"We seek to increase recycling rates for Amazon packaging and strive to enable curbside recyclability where available," the report states.
Word of the decision comes when Amazon said the company also reduced single-use plastics used in shipping by 11.6 percent in 2022 over the previous year's 97,222 metric tons (107.169 tons or 214.3 million pounds).
A pair of environmental groups reacted positively to Amazon's decision.
As You Sow is a shareholder advocacy group that's been pushing for change at Amazon for a few years now, filing shareholder proposals calling for reduction of plastic packaging use. Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president of As You Sow, believes his group's pressure on Amazon played a role in the decision. As You Sow's latest proposal seeking a plastic packaging reduction goal from the company received support from those holding 32 percent of the company's shares earlier this year.
"We had three years of significant sized votes: 35 percent in 2021, 49 percent in 2022 and 32 percent this year. We believe these strong vote results elevated pressure within the company to take actions that would result in the use of less plastic packaging," he said in an email interview.
As You Sow started filing shareholder proposals after a Pew Charitable Trusts report titled "Breaking the Plastic Wave" called for a reduction in plastic demand to cut ocean plastic pollution.
"Cutting plastic use by 11 percent and phasing out plastic mailers represent significant achievements by Amazon towards meeting reduction goals set out in the Pew report that will lead to less plastic waste," MacKerron said in a separate statement. "We hope the company will commit to a defined set of future reduction goals as well."
Nonprofit group Oceana called Amazon's move a "victory for the oceans."
"If Amazon follows through, this is good news for the oceans," Matt Littlejohn, senior vice president of Oceana, said in a statement. "The world's largest retailer is now using less single-use plastic and has just committed to phase out padded bags containing plastic globally."
Oceana, however, wants Amazon to commit to a timetable for elimination.
"The company should also commit to a phase-out deadline and make an explicit commitment to reduce all of its plastic packaging in addition to padded mailers but this is real progress and will mean that much less single-use plastic will find its way into the world's seas," Littlejohn said in his statement.