An investigation by British broadcaster ITV has found that Amazon is destroying millions of items in unsold or returned stock.
The report specifically focuses on one of the 24 warehouses the company has in the UK. According to ITV News, the destroyed items are largely unused and new, either returned items or those which never sold.
Many of the objects – which had been sorted into containers labeled ‘destroy’ – were expensive tech gadgets, including laptops, smart TVs, headphones and drones.
Books, jewellery, and COVID-19 supplies like sealed face masks were also being destroyed.
Mask rules are still in place throughout much of the UK.
An ex-Amazon worker at the investigated warehouse, located in Dunfermline, Scotland, tipped ITV News off to the story. They recorded footage inside the warehouse, as well as images of a crucial spreadsheet, which showed that over a single week in April, 124,000 items had been listed for destruction. Only 28,000 objects had been labelled ‘donate’ over the same time frame.
They said that their goal was to destroy 130,000 items per week, reflecting, “I used to gasp. There’s no rhyme or reason to what gets destroyed: Dyson fans, Hoovers, the occasional MacBook and iPad; the other day, 20,000 COVID (masks still in their wrappers.”
“Overall, 50 per cent of all items are unopened and still in their shrink wrap. The other half are returns and in good condition. Staff have just become numb to what they are being asked to do.”
Goods labelled for destruction were tracked by ITV News to both a landfill and to recycling centres.
ITV News released the investigation on Amazon Prime Day, where the marketplace giant offers a number of significant deals and sales.
— David Opie 🌈 (@DavidOpie) June 21, 2021
The excessive levels of waste have been criticised not just for their environmental impact, but also because the high-quality goods could have been donated to charities, or directly to those in need.
🤔 How about instead of letting brand new laptops and phones go to landfill, Amazon donated them to children with #BloodCancer?
— Blood Cancer UK (@bloodcancer_uk) June 21, 2021
With the advent of homeschooling throughout the pandemic, digital poverty became a significant problem, with children and university students unable to study properly because of a lack of access to devices.
In January this year, Kate Anstey of the Child Poverty Action group told the BBC that they “spoke to thousands of parents, carers and children and the thing we heard was that up to 40 per cent of them did not only not have access to a laptop or the internet, but also to other things like printers, even stationery and craft materials.”
— Caroline Keep 🌟😊 (@Ka81) June 21, 2021
— Janey Godley (@JaneyGodley) June 21, 2021
Shocking. I felt the same when I saw the amount of surplus food that was set to be wasted before it had even reached the store. How has it come to this?
— Jenny Briggs (@JennyMBriggs) June 21, 2021
Amazon has responded to the ITV News investigation, saying: “We are working towards a goal of zero product disposal and our priority is to resell, donate to charitable organisations or recycle any unsold products.”
“No items are sent to landfill in the UK. As a last resort, we will send items to energy recovery, but we’re working hard to drive the number of times this happens down to zero.”
They also claimed that what ITV News had identified as a landfill was actually a recycling site.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in response to the program, “obviously we don’t like stuff going to landfill under any circumstances. That’s why we have the landfill tax and landfill credit scheme, and everything else.”
“I’m afraid it’s one of those things we’re just going to have to look into and get back to you.”
Sam Chetan Welsh from Greenpeace told ITV News that, “it’s an unimaginable amount of unnecessary waste, and just shocking to see a multi-billion pound company getting rid of stock in this way.”
“Stuff that’s not even single use but not being used at all, straight off the production line and into the bin. As long as Amazon’s business model relies on this kind of disposal culture, things are only going to get worse. The government must step in and bring in legislation immediately.”
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