One of the biggest ironies of our time is that a corporate entity named after the largest carbon sink on our planet has become one of the biggest contributors to plastic poisoning of our planet.
Plastic is choking the earth
Our planet is being choked by plastic. Millions of tons of non-bio-degradable plastic waste is silently, but at a very fast pace choking our waterways, filling our landfills, poisoning the soil and damaging our respiratory and nervous systems.
In spite of the widespread knowledge about the harmful effects of plastics, its low cost and high utility ensure that it remains ubiquitous in today’s world. The businesses continue to use it, as it increases their profit margins and consumers continue to accept it as it keeps the cost low.
The growth of e-commerce companies has further boosted the use of plastic. Amazon, Flipkart and other e-commerce companies are engaged in very largescale business and make millions of deliveries every day in various parts of the Country.
With comfort comes environmental destruction!
Though this business model has been very useful for the consumers as they do not have to travel to markets for purchasing the required items and can make the purchase from the comfort of their homes, it has given rise to a very serious environmental challenge due to excessive use of single-use plastic packaging material.
Challenge created not due to any necessity, but due to the environmentally irresponsible practices adopted by these companies.
Everyone who has ever placed an order with Amazon and Flipkart must have noticed that they deliver the purchased items in cardboard boxes, which are mostly too large as compared to the size of the item being delivered. To ensure that the sold items do not move around in the oversized boxes, Amazon wraps the items in multiple layers of plastic sheets and plastic bubble wraps and thereafter fills the large empty spaces in the boxes with additional sheets of single-use plastic.
For example, even a novel comes wrapped in three layers of bubble wrap! A picture has been recently forwarded to me of a lipstick wrapped in bubble wrap and multiple plastic sheets.
Plastics responsible for serious diseases like Malaria
The United Nations Environment Programme’s Report on Single-Use Plastic-A Roadmap to Sustainability states that plastic waste causes a plethora of problems when it leaks into the environment. Plastic can block waterways and exacerbate natural disasters. By clogging sewers and providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes and pests, plastic bags can increase the transmission of vector-borne diseases like malaria.
High concentrations of plastic materials, particularly plastic bags, have been found blocking the airways and stomachs of hundreds of species. Plastic bags are often ingested by turtles and dolphins who mistake them for food. There is evidence that the toxic chemicals added during the manufacture of plastic transfer to animal tissue, eventually entering the human food chain.
Styrofoam products, which contain carcinogenic chemicals like styrene and benzene, are highly toxic if ingested, damaging the nervous systems, lungs and reproductive organs. The toxins in Styrofoam containers can leach into food and drinks.
Burning plastics for cooking?
In poor countries, plastic waste is often burned for heat or cooking, exposing people to toxic emissions. Disposing of plastic waste by burning it in open-air pits releases harmful gases like furan and dioxin. It also provides that 50% of Plastic Waste Generated in the world is plastic packaging material.
Similarly, as per the LCA Study of Plastic Packaging Material by the Central Pollution Control Board, 25940 tonnes of plastic is generated per day, the weight of which is equivalent to 9000 elephants or 86 Boeing Jet 747.
Amazon and Flipkart contributing to plastic waste
Out of this, about 11 Metric tonnes of plastic remains uncollected. Packaging constitutes 43% of this plastic use and Amazon and other e-commerce companies are major contributors to the creation of this plastic waste.
These e-commerce companies are covered under the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 but due to lack of effective monitoring and implementation agencies, companies like Amazon and Flipkart continue to use excessive amounts of plastic in wrapping and packaging their sold items.
In addition, no responsibility is being taken by these companies for the management of thousands of tons of plastic waste that’s being created by them every day. The harmful effects of single-use plastic are well known to Amazon and Flipkart but in spite of this, they continue to use excessive plastic packaging material while delivering even small unbreakable items.
Unbreakable things come wrapped in plastics!
For Example, a pen, a book, a scissor, or even a mobile charging wire, all of which are unbreakable come wrapped in sheets of plastic and bubble wrap though there is no necessity to use the same!
In fact, even the invoice sent by these companies along with the package comes in a plastic pouch thus adding further to plastic waste in each delivered package.
Once the delivery is completed, this plastic waste gets thrown away in the garbage by the consumers and the same end up at land-fill sites, which damages the environment, due to non-biodegradability.
In spite of dispensing so much plastic to the consumers, Amazon and Flipkart have not made any arrangements for the management of the plastic waste, either by taking back the plastic material or for ensuring that they are recycled, as they are required to do under Rule 9 of the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.
Stop using single-use plastics!
These companies also refuse to consider that even the fragile items which require packaging, can be easily protected by using smaller boxes and environment-friendly packaging material like recyclable paper bubble wrap, wheat and wood straw, wood wool, etc. However, ecommerce companies continue to irresponsibly use plastic.
For many years, environmental activists and consumers have been asking Amazon and Flipkart to change their packaging systems and stop using single-use plastic, but to no avail. They continue to use single-use plastic as it’s cheaper and profit is the primary consideration for these companies.
A Petition Against Amazon and Flipkart
Hence, left with no other option to protect our environment from the contaminating consequences of the e-commerce business, I was constrained to approach the National Green Tribunal through a petition U/s 14 & 18 of the NGT Act seeking a direction to Amazon and Flipkart to stop the excessive use of single-use plastic for wrapping and packing the items sold by them.
This petition though maybe in my name, but I have filed it as a representative of all those, who are concerned about the environmental damage being caused by the plastic and want Amazon. Flipkart and other e-commerce companies to stop using single-use plastic.
Now, the matter is in Court and the Ld. Tribunal will decide upon its merits as per law, however, in the People’s Court, Amazon and Flipkart have already been convicted for damaging our environment. The only way for these companies to protect their reputation in the eyes of the people is to plead guilty and make a public declaration that they will stop using single-use plastic and contribute to saving the environment.
Till that day comes, the People Versus Amazon battle will continue.
(The views expressed in the article are the author’s own. Let Me Breathe neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)