A campaign in Marin to get online shopping behemoth Amazon to reuse its cardboard boxes and plastic mailers is picking up steam.
A number of city and town councils in Marin have endorsed the petition, including San Rafael, Fairfax, Belvedere and Larkspur. Others such as Mill Valley and Novato are in the process.
The reuse idea is the brainchild of Carolyn Lund of Belvedere, who recently retired from her job of managing an olive mill in Sebastopol. Lund has also received a letter of encouragement from Marin County Supervisor Kate Sears and plans to soon ask the county to endorse the petition as well.
So far nearly 6,000 people have signed a petition that Lund posted on change.org calling on Amazon to offer a pilot program in Marin in which delivery trucks pick up Amazon boxes and plastic mailers on subsequent deliveries and return them to Amazon warehouses for reuse.
“Its part of every citys mission to move toward zero-waste,” Lund said. “This is a very concrete thing that would help them get there.”
The petition states: “Reuse of boxes eliminates the need for remanufacturing. It eliminates handling, trucking, and sorting. It conserves natural resources (timber, water) and causes no pollution. Ebay sellers and independent mail services have been reusing Amazon boxes for years.”
The petition goes on to say that only 25% of cardboard is recycled in the U.S. and that an estimated 3.5 billion Amazon boxes go to landfills annually. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.
“If we can get Amazon to run a pilot project here in Marin County, the heart of the Bay Area and one of Amazons biggest markets, this could have national impact,” Renton Rolph of Novato told the Novato City Council on Aug. 27.
During that meeting, the Novato council provisionally voted to support the campaign at the urging of Mayor Eric Lucan.
“I would like us to sign on to this with a letter,” Lucan said.
Lund said, “There has been no controversy, only widespread support.”
The campaign, however, did run into a brick wall when it sought the endorsement of the town of Tiburon. Council member Alice Fredericks, who was assigned to evaluate the request, decided not to agendize it for discussion by the full council.
Fredericks said she discussed the idea with a representative of Marin Sanitary Service, which provides recycling services for many of Marins cities and towns.
“Their people feel that cardboard is a huge part of what makes their economic model work,” Fredericks said. “If cardboard is a huge part of what makes the recyclers economic model work and they go out of business, everything is going to end up in the landfill anyway.”
Fredericks said she applauds Lund for raising the issue, “but its just not the business of the town because we have no control over it.”
Fredericks said the Tiburon Town Council has a policy of only weighing in on issues that are within the councils jurisdiction and affect the ability of the town to deliver services to the community.
Patty Garbarino, president of Marin Sanitary, said she isnt sure how big a bite the loss of the cardboard from the Amazon boxes would constitute.
“It would just be a guess,” Garbarino said. “I dont know the exact volume. If you take a piece out, naturally that has an effect on the rest of the calculations.”
Garbarino said unlike a growing number of used plastic products, cardboard does have value as a recyclable commodity. She said while the estimate that only 25% of cardboard gets recycled may be accurate nationally, Marin is a different story.
“The amount has to be closer to 80-90% here in Marin,” Garbarino said. “Almost all of the cardboard put out for recycling is recycled.”
She said that is because most Marin residents are sorting their recyclables so cardboard isnt contaminated by glass or other materials.
Lund, however, says no one really knows what percentage of used cardboard is being recycled.
“The Environmental Protection Agency used to track such things but that has been closed down by the Trump administration,” she said. “Even the garbage collectors dont have the whole picture because they dont know how many boxes are coming into peoples homes versus how many are getting into the recycling bin.”
Lund said if the Amazon boxes are reused they will still ultimately end up being recycled, when they start to break down. She said people need to realize that the recycling process itself uses energy and creates pollution.
“You still need to use water. You still need to use energy,” she said. “The word recycling is a misnomer; its actually remanufacturing. The more we can steer away from remanufacturing and the pollution that is implicit in it, the more we can preserve our natural resources, our air and land.”
As for Marin Sanitarys possible loss of revenue if the Amazon boxes are reused, Lund said, “This is revenue that comes from our garbage bills. We are paying for that cardboaRead More – Source