Green Junction: Amazon~not the rain forrest. By Julie Peller Ph.D.

Amazon, the giant, US-based, e-commerce company recently had its annual shareholders’ meeting. One discussion point was a proposal to report the company’s plastic use and determine the benefits of reducing plastic. With only 48% of shareholders voting in favor of evaluating the company’s plastic usage/waste, the proposal fell short of the majority and was rejected.

Amazon is a huge contributor to the global plastic waste problem mostly due to the plastic used in its packaging. According to the international organization Oceana, which functions to highlight threats to the world’s oceans, Amazon’s plastic packaging waste increased from 465 to 599 million pounds from 2019 to 2020. This type of plastic waste is mostly not recyclable or in some cases can be downcycled to a less valuable form of plastic. Amazon’s current goal is to use recycled plastic in its tech products by 2023. It plans to also incentivize manufacturers to use recycled plastic. In comparison, other major companies, such as IKEA and Unilever, have pledged to reduce plastic use; Amazon has not committed to this critical change. 

Experts who study plastic waste emphasize the outright requirement to significantly reduce the amount of plastic manufactured and used worldwide. The latest research on the tiny forms of plastic, micro and nano plastics – mostly created from all our plastic stuff, indicates that we ingest these materials daily. They can cause a number of negative human health effects, including enhanced absorption of fat and disruptions in the absorption of nutrients. Much more research is being conducted on these man-made materials, which, for a healthier world, must be reduced on both the personal and corporate levels.  Pope Francis has made this appeal to humanity: “We cannot allow our seas and oceans to be littered by endless fields of floating plastic. We need to pray as if everything depended on God’s providence, and work as if everything depended on us.”

Julie Peller, Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ), and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage, IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), and student and citizen participation in environmental work.

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