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Amazon Must Stop Flooding Our Oceans With Plastic Waste

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/12/16/amazon-must-stop-flooding-our-oceans-plastic-waste

There’s an easy fix: STOP USING AMAZON !!!
Stop giving your money to the worst boss in modern history.
Stop using the excuse, “I can’t buy it anywhere else”, you can, it just takes a few more key strokes and time.

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I don’t Amazon. But all prepared food and medicine, in the grocery or in fast food is all covered in layers of plastic. I try to eat with fresh veggies and fresh fruit but even that often comes wrapped in plastic. Even at a store that is using paper bags at the checkout.
It ain’t only Amazon.

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Hi HelenB:
I wonder why Amazon doesn’t use things like popcorn—or would that mean corn would disappear from the markets? NO salted popcorn could be used but it could act as a nice cushion for mailed articles, and then you could recycle the non salted popcorn outside for the birds. It would be better than those white plastic pod pieces which fly all over and seem to live forever.

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You know the answer- it costs more. And pleading for consumers to solve this problem is absurd- people have enough problems. What we need is for government to solve the problem. Simply mandate biodegradable packaging. Certain types of PLA plastic can mostly biodegrade and thin layers can be applied to cardboard for certain containers where straight cardboard doesn’t work as well. Might not work for air bags in boxes as I’m not sure it is nonporous enough. So what? - use something else. Engineering and science can solve lots of problems- they just need to be given the right constraints and those will never be supplied by someone at the head of Amazon, Target, or most small stores for that matter.

Now getting a competent government that isn’t completely beholden to business- that’s the problem to solve.

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Hi dara;
But consumers have solved problems-----and besides popcorn is cheaper than the plastic air filled cushions that came with my recent holiday gift! PLASTIC IS KIllING THE EARTH---- Along with AMAZON.

such as?

I can guarantee you that it is not. All companies would use it if it were cheaper (performance wise - I’m sure it works well enough to meet spec).

I’m with you on wanting a lot less plastic in the world. I wish it were a bigger national issue (it comes up in local referendums some at least).

Hi dara:
Hmmm how do you guarantee me? : )

Because it is the very definition of a publicly owned company - to maximize profit. If using product A (popcorn) is cheaper than using product B (air filled plastic bags) and there is equal probability of damage during transit or customer satisfaction (which I think there is), then they MUST chose the cheaper option.

Why in the world would you think otherwise?

The problem is that the cheaper option is (usually) plastic. That can only be solved by regulating away the possibility of using a non-biodegradable plastic for most uses in the US.

Hi dara:
Just because there is a logical and cheaper product—that doesn’t mean a company will choose it. I have worked in many strange places when 2008 collapsed, and I have to say that with many dept. heads, they take suggestions as a personal affront. “We’ve aways done it this way,”" is sadly a very popular answer. : )

I agree companies can be risk averse and so the cheaper solution, especially if it is only slightly cheaper, doesn’t always win at first. In this case I didn’t see enough advantage to plastic bags vs popcorn to warrant using bags over cheaper popcorn (if it were cheaper which I still don’t think it is, but I couldn’t find numbers).

But after reading ~https://www.airseacontainers.com/blog/shipping-tips-packing-peanuts-vs-air-pillows/, there may be a negative customer reaction to popcorn vs air bags. you have to pop the bags (my kid loves doing that still) which goes pretty fast and than it can be recycled in some locations (HDPE). But the styrofoam peanuts drove people crazy according to this article (I hate them too - blowing everywhere when the recycling truck comes or making a mess in your house) and some of the annoyance is still there with popcorn. They have used biodegradable plastic peanuts but they are heavier (more shipping cost) and I imagine the annoyance factor for many is a problem with popcorn too. I think that choice for a packing material is always going to be for boutique shops only. A more realizable change is biodegradable packaging in other forms in my opinon.

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These materials are recyclable if they are clean. The major problem with plastic isn’t that it is toxic but that it is inert and while the sun and weathering break it down it never loses its molecular bonding. So, while the plastic bag or car part may eventually disperse, microorganisms will consume these compounds and starve to death. These microorganisms live all over the planet from the deepest sea to the highest mountain and are the basic building blocks of life on the planet.
Of course, plastic, like combustion generated energy, must be rethought and cannot be used irresponsibly and plastic one use grocery bags need to disappear.

Which materials are we talking about - the plastic air bags made out of HDPE? Those are perfectly clean usually. I don’t doubt they can be recycled along with HDPE bottles if people sorted perfectly or if robots/processes could sort plastics. That seems like a huge mess and I’m basically fed up with the entire plastics industry for not giving us a better solution (and it can be one where they still make money). In my limited vision, I like a world where all plastic is at least biodegradable in an industrial composting facility - and that we start mandating these facilities. Alternative, if they can come up with a truly biodegradable plastic option where plastic can just go in a landfill along with food waste and other things and it will actually break down, that’s OK too. I haven’t heard a lot on this front, but I see stuff occasionally like ~https://www.waste360.com/plastics/truly-green-plastic-launched-cannabis-waste-based-biodegradable-option.

My main point no matter what we do is that we can’t leave the decision up to the plastics industry - we need will informed people, some of whom maybe worked in the industry but don’t have financial ties, and we need a strong regulatory solution. The status quo is broken I quite agree.