Amazon is destroying millions of items of unsold stock every year including smart TVs and laptops, an investigation has uncovered.
Undercover footage shows the astonishing scale of waste from just one of 24 distribution centres in operation across the UK.
Products that are often new and unused get sorted into boxes labelled ‘destroy’, including drones, hairdryers, top of the range headphones and books.
An ex-employee, who asked to remain anonymous, alleged that staff had a target ‘to generally destroy 130,000 items a week’.
They told ITV: ‘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.
‘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.’
The ITV investigation found that hundreds of thousands of products that were never sold, or returned by a customer, end up in a ‘destruction zone’ each week.
Almost all could have been redistributed to charities or those in need.
Instead, they are thrown into bins, carried away by lorries and dumped at waste recycling centres.
Amazon said it did not send any items to landfill and that as a last resort, a small number of products (less than 1%) go to energy recovery.
Energy recovery is a method of diverting non-recyclable waste from landfill by burning it to create heat, electricity, or fuel.
A leaked document from inside the Dunfermline warehouse showed more than 124,000 items were marked ‘destroy’ in just one week.
During the same time period, just 28,000 items were labelled ‘donate’.
The manager who spoke to ITV said that in some weeks, as many as 200,000 items could be marked ‘destroy’.
The reason has been blamed on Amazon’s business model.
Many vendors from around the world choose to store their products in the online retail giant’s vast warehouses.
But the longer the goods remain unsold, the more a company is charged to store them and it is eventually cheaper to dispose of the goods.
What Amazon is doing is not illegal, and the government is facing calls to intervene with legislation.
The Dunfermline warehouse is just 40 miles from Glasgow, where the UK will host the world’s biggest ever climate conference in November.
Greenpeace spokesman Sam Chetan-Welsh said: ‘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.’
In response to the investigation, Amazon 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.’