Amazon has been branded as “obscene” after an investigation at one of its Scottish warehouses suggested the online retail giant is destroying millions of items every year.
ITV News found items, including smart TVs, laptops, drones, hairdryers and thousands of sealed face masks, were sorted into boxes marked “destroy” at the Amazon Fulfilment Centre in Dunfermline, Fife.
One ex-employee at the site, one of 24 such warehouses across the UK, said their “target was to generally destroy 130,000 items a week”.
The anonymous worker added: “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% of all items are unopened and still in their shrink wrap. The other half are returns and in good condition.”
The investigation also found a leaked document showed more than 124,000 items were marked “destroy” during one week in April – compared to just 28,000 items in the same period labelled “donate”.
However, a 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.
The Lochhead Landfill is also part of the Dunfermline Recycling Centre.
A statement from 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.
“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.”
Energy recovery is when recyclable materials are stripped from products before the rest is reconverted into energy and put through the national grid.
But the spokesman maintained this was a last resort for the company – and also denied it was cheaper to dispose of the items instead of returning them to the domestic sellers.
Mark Ruskell, Scottish Greens environment spokesman and Mid Scotland and Fife MSP, said: “Amazon’s net profit has soared during this crisis while many people have struggled to make ends meet.
“It’s therefore obscene that this multi-billion corporation finds it more profitable to put unused items in the bin than help people out.
“It is a damning indictment of our economy that the throwaway culture is put before people’s needs. Even if it is not reflective of wider Amazon policy, the company must answer for why the Dunfermline warehouse has such high levels of waste and so little is resold or given to charities.
“This shocking revelation shows that governments must do more to force companies to design waste out of their systems, with regulation and fines where they are failing to do the right thing.”
Robin Baird, CEO of Fife Council’s commercially run waste collection service, confirmed that Amazon do use the Lochhead site for their recycling needs.
He added: “We operate a state-of-the-art recycling facility where all suitable material is sorted and recycled. Any waste product is then sent to our Energy from Waste (EfW) outlet.”