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Amazon’s streamlined packaging wreaks havoc in recycling centers

Packages decorated with Amazon logos travel along a conveyor at the inside of an Amazon fulfillment center. (Reuters)

Amazon, which has disrupted many industries and has garnered controversy with its facial recognition software, is now causing problems for recycling centers.

The online retail behemoth has reportedly been the reduction of the share of the shipments, put it in cardboard boxes, in favor of the lighter plastic mailers over the past year, making the pack more packages into trucks and planes.

However, according to the Washington Post report, environmental activists and waste experts have said that the plastic mailers have a negative effect.

“That Amazon packaging suffer from the same problems as plastic bags, which are not sortable in our recycling system, and get caught in the machine,” Lisa Sepanski, project manager for King County Solid Waste Division, who oversees the recycling in King County, Washington, where Amazon is based, told the Post. “It takes labor to cut them out. They have to stop the machines.”

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Amazon now accounts for about half of all e-commerce in the United States, according to 2018, analysis by research firm eMarketer, so it is the primary source of the plastic containers. Other companies, including Target, also use them.

The plastic mailers are responsible for different problems, the Post added. In general, they should be recycled separately, but if they end up in the normal recycling stream, they will prevent larger bundles of materials to be recycled by gum-up the system, the report said.

Waste experts consulted by the publication noted that plastic is better for the environment because they take up less space, making the shipping industry more efficient. Less greenhouse gases are emitted in the production and use of plastic foil, a senior environmental policy analyst told the Post.

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Since the plastic mailers also have a paper address labels are attached, that creates a separate problem because the label must be removed before the mailer can be recycled with other plastic.

“We are constantly working to improve our packaging and opportunities for re-use, and have reduced packaging waste by more than 20 percent worldwide in 2018,” an Amazon spokesperson told the Post.

Fox News has reached Amazon for further comment on this story.

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