Amazon destroying millions of new and unused items each year - report

As many as 200,000 items could be destroyed each week, says a former manager.
As many as 200,000 items could be destroyed each week, says a former manager Photo credit: ITV News

Online shopping giant Amazon is destroying millions of items of stock each year, including many new and unused items, a British investigation has found.

ITV News went undercover at one of the company's 24 distribution centres in the UK and found smart TVs, laptops, headphones, books and much more sorted into boxes for destruction.

A former manager, who asked to remain anonymous, told ITV the target was to destroy 130,000 items per week.

"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," they said.

"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 spokesperson told ITV news that the company was working towards a goal of zero product disposal.

"Our priority is to resell, donate to charitable organisations or recycle any unsold products," they said.

"No items are sent to landfill in the UK. As a last resort, we will send items to energy recovery."

However the former manager said in some weeks as many as 200,000 items could be marked to be destroyed.

And a leaked document from a single week in April at the Dunfermline distribution centre showed 124,000 items for destruction with just 28,000 for donation.

Sam Chetan-Welsh, a political campaigner at Greenpeace, told ITV that the UK government needed to step in and introduce legislation to stop the practice.

"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."

One of the reasons for the vast level of product destruction is Amazon's business model, ITV news says.

Companies who sell goods via Amazon choose to store products in its warehouses but as the cost to store them increases the longer they remain unsold it eventually becomes cheaper to dispose of them.

The tech giants reported revenue of US$386 billion in 2020, with founder and current CEO Jeff Bezos the world's richest man with a net worth of around US$177 billion, according to Forbes.