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Multinational online retail giant Amazon recently announced that their India operation will phase out all single-use disposable plastic packaging by June 2020. This move follows multiple strides taken by corporations to ditch plastic and reduce their environmental impact, in line with the Indian government’s fight against pollution.
In response to consumer criticism about the overuse of disposable plastic packaging and polystyrene to wrap products for delivery, Amazon’s India unit will be replacing all single-use plastics with recyclable paper cushions. The e-commerce giant previously said it was developing plastic-free alternatives for bubble wrap, and would start collecting plastic through a ‘take-back’ scheme soon. It has also committed to making 50% of all shipments carbon-neutral by 2030.
In a statement, Amazon India’s vice president Akhil Saxena said: “Investment in protecting the environment ensures a triple win – it is good for our planet, good for our customers and community, and good for business.”
This is a vital step in a country overwhelmed with plastic pollution. India generates almost 26,000 tonnes of plastic a day according to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) estimates. Worryingly, over 10,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day remains uncollected.
Amazon India’s rival, Flipkart, has also taken steps to phase out the use of disposable plastic in India. Having reportedly already eliminated 25% of single-use plastics in packaging, Flipkart’s new programme will involve moving to using only 100% recycled plastics throughout its entire supply chain by March 2021.
Commenting on the wave of newly launched environmental initiatives, Satish Meena of Forrester Research said told AFP: “It is a necessary and a crucial step to reduce plastic waste and in tandem with government policy.”
Indeed, the Indian Prime Minister Modi has an upcoming plan to implement a nationwide ban plastic bags, cups and straws in order to reduce the nation’s 5.6 million tonnes of plastic waste generated annually. The “Clean India” campaign aims to drastically reduce the usage of plastic disposables across Indian businesses.
As e-commerce retail continues to grow in popularity, we must continue to question whether these green business initiatives are enough to fight global plastic pollution. Last Friday, marine conservation organisation Sea Shepherd reported that 7 tonnes of plastic pollution was washed up on Arnhem Land beach, a remote area in Australia. Consumers can no longer turn a blind eye to the environmental cost of online retail – paper packaging included.
According to the Fast Company, the cardboard used in paper packaging boxes in the United States alone equates to more than 1 billion trees. Despite new claims of sustainability commitments by online retailers like Amazon and Flipkart, we must understand that plastic-free packaging might not necessarily mean eco-friendly.
Lead image courtesy of Fundera.