Amazon destroying millions of unsold items each year, investigation finds

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Amazon Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN) has been destroying millions of unsold items in its warehouses every year, according to information gathered by an undercover media investigation. 

Undercover camera footage filmed by ITV at one of the ecommerce giant’s 24 UK fulfilment centres revealed that multiple products including TVs, laptops, headphones, books and even facemasks were sorted into boxes marked for destruction.

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Items marked for the “destruction zone” also included products that had been returned by customers, with most of the items packed into lorries and then dumped at recycling centres and landfill sites.

The ITV investigation also quoted a former Amazon employee who said the target at the centre was to destroy 130,000 items per week, adding that “50 percent of all items are unopened and still in their shrink wrap”.

The report also highlighted a leaked document from the warehouse in Dunfermline which showed that over 124,000 items were marked for destruction in one week in April compared to 28,000 items marked for donation to charities and other organisations.

The logic behind the vast amount of wastage appears to be related to the cost of storing products in Amazon’s vast warehouses. Vendors usually pay the company to store products in its centres, however the longer they are unsold the higher the cost of storage. Often it becomes cheaper for vendors to allow the products to be removed and destroyed rather than continue paying storage costs.

However, the actions of Amazon are not illegal, with the company telling the investigation that it is “working towards a goal of zero product disposal” and “no items are sent to landfill in the UK”.

The revelations are yet another headache for the company which is currently facing multiple battles over working conditions and investigations by regulators into its business practices.

It is also likely to draw greater attention to the current state of consumerism, potentially threatening Amazon’s ability to shift products.

In Westminster, the chairs of the all-party parliamentary groups on digital skills and data poverty have demanded a meeting with Amazon’s UK country manager John Boumphrey.

A letter from the MPs said the destruction of laptops and tablets was not only damaging for the environment but also a “missed opportunity to help millions of people in the UK who do not have a device to connect to the internet”.

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