A box of deflated plastic air pillows. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

Amazon on Thursday announced that it has eliminated 95% of the inflated plastic pillows that it uses to cushion goods being shipped to its customers. It’s now largely using recycled paper as a filler.

The e-commerce giant said the move marks its “largest plastic packaging reduction effort in North America and will avoid nearly 15 billion plastic air pillows annually.”

“We are working towards full removal in North America by end of year and will continue to innovate, test, and scale in order to prioritize curbside recyclable materials,” said Pat Lindner, Amazon’s vice president of mechatronics and sustainable packaging, in a release announcing the news.

Environmental nonprofit Oceana cheered the news, and called on the company to go further.

Amazon has largely replaced its plastic air pillows with recycled paper for delivery packaging. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

“While this is a significant step forward for the company, Amazon needs to build on this momentum and fulfill its multiyear commitment to transition its North America fulfillment centers away from plastic,” said Matt Littlejohn, Oceana’s senior vice president of strategic initiatives, in a statement.

In an April report, Oceana estimated that Amazon had produced 208 million pounds of plastic packaging in 2022 in the U.S. If that total volume was turned into air pillows it would circle the Earth more than 200 times, according to the nonprofit.

The plastic pillows as well as the bubblewrap plastic mailers still in use by the company are typically not allowed in curbside recycling.

The company is planning to also replace those blue-and-white mailers with a paper product, Lindner told Bloomberg.

An unsuccessful shareholder proposal at Amazon’s annual meeting last month requested that the company explore how it could reduce its plastic footprint.

Amazon reported that in 2022 it had decreased by 11.6% its single-use plastic delivery packaging.

Much of its previous decline in plastic use came from changes in its operations overseas. In December, Amazon reported that it in Europe it had replaced its single-use plastic packaging for deliveries with 100% recyclable paper and cardboard packaging. The European Union has taken steps to ban disposable plastics in packaging and other uses over the next few years.

Amazon recently brought those efforts to the U.S., announcing in October 2023 that a fulfillment center in Ohio was its first facility to replace plastic packaging with recyclable paper options.

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