A new report has revealed that Amazon destroys millions of unsold stock items each year in the UK, including unused and unopened Apple products like AirPods, iPads, and MacBooks.
The undercover investigation, which was carried out by media outlet iTV News, gathered footage of merchandise slated for destruction at 24 fulfillment centers around the United Kingdom.
According to iTV, the scale of the waste includes computer drives, books, sealed face masks, top-tier headphones, and drones. Reportedly, nearly 130,000 items a week are organized into boxes marked “destroy.” Eventually the items are dumped into bins and shipped to recycling centers or landfills.
“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 (face) masks still in their wrappers,” an Amazon employee told iTV News.
There doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with the products, either. The Amazon employee said that about 50% are unopened, while the other half are returns that are still in good condition.
“Staff have just become numb to what they are being asked to do,” they said.
Amazon also appears to donate some items. however, it does so at a much smaller scale. At a warehouse in Dunfermline, about 28,000 items were labeled for donation during one week in April. That’s compared to 124,000 items marked for tossing in that same period.
The practice is a result of Amazon’s business model. Many vendors choose to store their goods at Amazon warehouses. If those products remain unsold, Amazon charges them for storage. Eventually, it becomes cheaper to simply dispose of the merchandise.
An Amazon spokesperson told iTV News that the amount of stock that the retail giant destroys is “extremely small.”
“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,” Amazon said.
iTV News reached out to members of the U.K. government — including Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Officials said they would “look into it,” and are considering regulations around reuse and recycling for items like electronics.
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