Amazon waste investigation sparks UK government call for ‘more re-use and recycling of products’

An investigation into one of Amazon’s Scottish warehouses has compelled the UK government to call for ‘more re-use and recycling of products’ after it was discovered that the online giant is destroying millions of products a year.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said the government is ‘looking at regulations to increase recycling practices’ and to ‘make sure retailers take more responsibility for things like electrical goods.’

The call follows an investigation by ITV that found items including smart TVs, laptops, drones, hairdryers, and thousands of sealed face masks had been sorted into boxes marked ‘destroy’ at the Amazon Fulfilment Centre in Dunfermline, Fife.

Speaking anonymously, an ex-employee at the site revealed that their target was to destroy 130,000 items a week.

“I used to gasp. There’s no rhyme or reason to what gets destroyed,” they said. “Dyson fans, Hoovers, the occasional MacBook and iPad; the other day, 20,000 Covid facemasks still in their wrappers. Overall 50 per cent of all items are unopened and still in their shrink wrap. The other half are returns and in good condition.”

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said that the business secretary has already been in conversation with Amazon on the issue, adding that “we absolutely want to see more re-use and recycling of products.

ITV also found a leaked document from Amazon that showed more than 124,000 items were marked ‘destroy’ during one week of April, compared to 28,000 items in the same period labelled ‘donate’.

Amazon has however, denied the claims, telling the PA news agency that no items are sent to landfill in the UK, but that, at last resort, it will send items to energy recovery; a means of stripping recyclable materials from products before the rest is reconverted into energy.

A statement from Amazon published in The Independent, 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.”

The Amazon spokesperson also denied that it was cheaper to dispose of the items instead of returning them to the domestic sellers.