On Jan. 25, six U.S. senators took the issue of hard-to-recycle plastic packaging to some of the largest e-commerce companies in America. Sens. Rick J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Richard Blumental (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent a letter to Amazon, Walmart, Apple, Home Depot, Target, Wayfair, Best Buy, and Costco, urging them to reduce the amount of plastic packaging their companies use.

Online purchasing has intensified during the pandemic, the letter points out, creating a glut of plastic packaging, including plastic film. While this packaging can be recycled at supermarkets or retail stores, it can’t go in a bin for curbside pickup. Many people are unaware of this issue or unable to bring the products to an appropriate recycling location. Instead, they “wish-cycle,” lumping these plastics in the same bin as recyclable materials. Doing this can contaminate the recycling process, forcing all materials into a landfill or, in some cases, our waterways and oceans, the letter says.

The letter asked the companies several sustainability-minded questions, including several related to recycling, like whether they’re moving toward packaging that is more easily recyclable curbside, what steps they are taking to increase the recycled content in their products, and what they’re doing to ensure proper recycling and disposal of their products.

ISRI is no stranger to the issues of educating the public on and designing for recycling, having previously collaborated with senators on key provisions for the 2019 RECYCLE Act, which, if reintroduced, would provide funding to help educate consumers on their residential and community recycling programs. ISRI issued a statement on Feb. 2 commending the senators for taking an active stance on the challenges with plastics packaging. Such challenges “can be resolved today by boosting end market demand for recyclable plastics, including incorporating recycled plastic content in their required packaging,” ISRI states.