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Investigation weighs the impacts of e-commerce warehouses in neighborhoods

Amazon-Prime Day
Posted at 3:18 PM, May 26, 2023

A new investigation from Consumer Reports is showing how e-commerce delivery is impacting neighborhoods across the country. It looked at a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, where there are two Amazon warehouses and a third expected soon.

Using traffic, noise and air-quality sensors, Kavah Waddell says they recorded elevated levels of particle pollution. The levels were at a point the Environmental Protection Agency would consider concerning for people with preexisting conditions like asthma.

His team also noticed through its investigation of other places outside of Los Angeles and Chicago that e-commerce warehouses are often in lower income neighborhoods and communities of color.

"Because of our very long legacy of discriminatory housing policies, like redlining, a lot of those sort of areas that are adjacent to industrial uses, places where it might not be their first place to choose to live, those are often communities of color or lower income communities," Waddell said.

Waddell says there's been a growing momentum of policies that would make it difficult for warehouses to clump in a single neighborhood.

A proposal in New York state would be a first of its kind. It’s called the Clean Deliveries Act.

"It would actually require warehouse operators across all of New York state to account for their truck and van traffic and take certain steps to mitigate that,” Waddell said. “So that could be electrifying trucks and vans, for example. It could be things like putting in solar panels."

In a statement, Amazon said the following:

"We remain committed to becoming a more sustainable company, and that includes how we show up in neighborhoods where our customers live, and employees work,” Amazon spokesperson Simone Griffin said. “We will continue to roll out electric delivery vehicles, cargo bikes, and other forms of transportation, in addition to powering local buildings with wind and solar energy where we can."

Amazon says it's on the path to power its operations with 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. That is five years ahead of its initial 2030 target.

Meanwhile, Waddell wants people to know e-commerce giants are moving closer to neighborhoods because that's what it takes for really fast deliveries.