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Amazon’s plastic packaging was reportedly found thousands of miles away at illegal dump sites in India

A white Amazon package with a black barcode on a conveyor beltAmazon plastic packaging was reportedly found in dump sites in India after making its way there from North America.

Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

  • Amazon delivery packages from North America were found in illegal dump sites and mills in India.
  • Plastic waste ends up in dump sites that emit vile odors and can pollute the air, Bloomberg reports.
  • These findings come after Amazon made commitments to increase the recyclability of its shipping.

Amazon consumers in the US and Canada may think that their Amazon delivery packaging will find a second life once they recycle it. But a Bloomberg investigation found that many of these plastic shipping envelopes, alongside other consumer packaging, are now ubiquitous at six illegal dump sites in the remote town of Muzaffarnagar, India — thousands of miles away from where they were discarded.

It’s not necessarily the fault of Amazon: Many consumers wrongly assume that packages labeled recyclable or featuring the three-arrow recycle logo are safe for recycling everywhere, but the majority of American recyclers can’t process soft plastics, Bloomberg reported.

As a result, plastic, like the Amazon envelopes, often gets mixed into the paper waste that is shipped to countries with lax enforcement of disposal rules, which is how the plastic can end up polluting someone’s backyard on the other side of the world, per Bloomberg. 

Laurie Smyla, a former recycling coordinator with a degree in environmental science who is based in Sloatsburg, New York, recycled a plastic Amazon envelope that made its way to a three-acre plastic dump site in India just a few hundred feet away from the home of Bobinder Kumar and his family, Bloomberg found. 

“I feel betrayed as a consumer,” Smyla told Bloomberg. “That recycling symbol — it’s all a marketing feel-good message and very deceptive. It should not be harming other people in other parts of the world.”

Kumar said that the site is flooded with Amazon’s blue-and-white shipping envelopes and that the packaging emits a vile odor.

“We can’t escape the smell of the trash, even in our home,” Kumar told Bloomberg. “It’s very terrible to live close to the site, but what can we do?”

Amazon delivery packaging was also found mixed in with materials processed at sugar cane and paper mills in Muzaffarnagar, according to Bloomberg. Burning plastic, like the packaging, releases toxic chemicals like mercury and dioxins into the atmosphere, which can cause harm to humans, agriculture, and animals.

Residents of Muzaffarnagar told Bloomberg that they know when plastic is burnt while they are asleep because they wake up to find sheets of ash covering their terraces and crops. 

Muzaffarnagar’s chief medical officer said that air pollution and the burning of plastic are linked to a 30% uptick in respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis among the town’s residents, Bloomberg reported. 

Often times, waste is transferred from wealthy countries to less wealthy ones with the help of brokers who charge a fee to throw away trash or buy the trash at a cheap rate to sell across borders, Bloomberg reported. These brokers have alleged links to criminal gangs and fraudsters.

Bloomberg’s findings come three years after the Indian government lifted its ban on importing plastic waste due to the country’s waste shortage, the India Times reported.

The findings pose a challenge to Amazon’s sustainability commitments to increase the recyclability of its delivery packages and to reduce its waste. Last year, the company generated 709 million pounds of plastic packaging waste, according to a report by international environmental group Oceana, and it used 97,222 metric tons of single-use plastic across Amazon-owned and operated global fulfillment centers, the company said.

In 2021, Amazon announced programs to sell returned items as “used” and for vendors to sell their overstocked inventory in bulk as part of its pledge to prevent millions of its products from entering the landfill.

While Amazon didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment on its packaging being found in Muzaffarnagar, a company spokesperson told Insider in a statement that it “is committed to minimizing waste and helping our customers recycle their packaging.”

“Since 2015, we have invested in materials, processes, and technologies that have reduced per-shipment packaging weight by 38% and eliminated over 1.5 million tons of packaging material,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also referred Insider to Amazon Second Chance, a guide for customers to understand how to recycle their Amazon packaging. 

Here is the full report from Bloomberg. 

Read the original article on Business Insider