Amazon is destroying thousands of unsold laptops, televisions and other electrical items every week, a new investigation has revealed..
Secret footage captured inside the retail giant’s Dunfermline warehouse in Scotland shows laptops, drones, smart TVs and other items being sorted into boxes marked ‘Destroy’ to be sent to recycling centres, according to an investigation by ITV News.
The items had either been returned by customers or were never sold, but were sent to be destroyed even though the majority could have been repurposed and distributed to charities, schools or elsewhere, ITV said.
Vendors frequently choose to store their products in Amazon’s warehouses to make them quicker to dispatch. But the cost of storing them long term means unsold or returned items are often cheaper to destroy.
More than 124,000 items were marked to be destroyed over a week inside the Dunfermline warehouse, one of Amazon’s 24 fulfilment centres in the UK, according to leaked documents obtained by ITV News.
A former employee at Amazon in Dunfermline told ITV News: “From a Friday to a Friday, our target was to generally destroy 130,000 items a week. I used to gasp. There’s no rhyme or reason to what gets destroyed. Dyson Fans or Hoovers, the occasional MacBook and iPad. The other day, 20,000 covid masks still in their wrappers. Overall, 50 percent 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.”
An Amazon spokesman told the PA news agency that while the investigation followed lorries to a landfill site, no items are disposed of in that way in the UK. The Lochhead Landfill is also part of the Dunfermline Recycling Centre.
The investigation comes amid growing concern over the level of e-waste in the UK, which has the second highest rates in the world, after Norway.
The Government has said it could force e-commerce sites such as Amazon to collect old equipment such as phones and kettles when consumers buy new ones, to avoid them being sent to landfill.
Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said: “The scale of the astonishing destruction of brand new consumer electronics by Amazon, unveiled by ITV News today, if true, is the unacceptable face of waste generated by this global online giant. So many of the products are reportedly in pristine condition ready to be sold on.
"How can Amazon protest its sustainability credentials with a straight face when it appears to be destroying millions of unused items a year?"
The destruction of returned or unsold goods does not break any UK laws, but Greenpeace’s Head of Waste Sam Chetan-Welsh said it was “an unimaginable amount of unnecessary waste.”
“It’s just shocking to see a company making billions in profits getting rid of brand new stock in this way,” he said.
“Expensive products that took energy and resources to manufacture come straight off the production line and into our overstretched waste system, and the high taxes needed to dispose of it all aren’t being paid by Amazon.
“Other countries have laws to prevent this type of appalling waste, and our government needs to bring in similar legislation immediately.”
In a statement given to ITV News, an Amazon spokesperson said: “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.
“We are committed to reducing our environmental footprint and building a circular economy programme with the aim of reducing returns, reusing and reselling products, and reducing disposals.”
Amazon were contacted for comment.