A warehouse by tech and online commerce giant Amazon destroys thousands of unsold inventory items every week, according to a report by Independent Television (ITV), from the United Kingdom, based on a complaint by a former employee and video images recorded inside the warehouse in Dunfermline, Scotland. Among the destroyed items are new products such as laptops, smart TVs, books, electronic equipment and Covid-19 protective masks.
The former Amazon employee, who asked not to have his identity revealed, told the TV channel that warehouse workers had a weekly goal of destroying 130,000 items. The allegation is supported by an internal memo, seen by the report, which points out that in a week in April, 124,000 items were marked to be “destroyed”. In the same week, 28,000 products were classified for “donation”.
The recording made covertly by the report in the warehouse shows the scale of the waste. Products that have not been sold or that have been returned by consumers are thrown into large containers and taken by truck for disposal in recycling centers or landfills.
The former employee said that “from Friday to Friday, our goal was generally to destroy 130,000 items a week.” About half of the products were items packaged for transport and the other half were returned products in good condition.
“I was shocked. There’s no logic about what gets destroyed: Dyson fans, vacuum cleaners, occasionally MacBooks and iPads. In one day, 20,000 Covid masks are still on the packaging,” the person told ITV.
An Amazon spokesman said in a press release that Dunfermline’s unit is responsible for products destined for destruction across the UK, and that the landfill shown by the report is also a recycling centre. The representative said that Amazon “is working towards its goal of zero product disposal” and that the company’s priority is “to resell, donate to charitable organizations or recycle unsold products”.
“Ultimately, we ship items for energy recovery, but we are working hard to reduce the number of times this occurs to zero,” the company says.
In 2019, undercover journalists found that Amazon destroyed more than 3 million products in one year in France.
ITV explains that one of the reasons for the destruction of so many products is the very success of Amazon’s business model. Many sellers choose to store their items in Amazon warehouses. But the longer items go unsold, the more the company has to pay for their storage. There comes a time when it’s cheaper to destroy goods than to keep paying for storage.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the investigation “sounds unbelievable” and is “an allegation of a consumer society”. “If that’s what you’re saying, let’s find out,” he added, noting that the country has taxes and programs to prevent products from ending up in landfills. “We want to see more reuse, more recycling. And above all, people stop using things that will eventually pollute our seas and our world,” the prime minister said.