Amazon denies investigation into sending unsold items to landfill

Dunfermline, UK - Amazon has denied it sends unsold goods to landfills after an investigation at one of its Scottish warehouses suggested the online retail giant is destroying millions of items every year.

An investigation followed dump trucks filled with Amazon products to the Lochhead Landfill (stock image).
An investigation followed dump trucks filled with Amazon products to the Lochhead Landfill (stock image).  © Collage: 123RF/Aleksandr Papichev & 123RF/rclassenlayouts

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 Fulfillment Center in Dunfermline, Fife.

An 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 masks still in their wrappers.

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"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 that showed more than 124,000 items were marked "destroy" one week in April – compared to just 28,000 items in the same period labelled "donate."

An investigation followed dump trucks to the landfill site

The Lochhead Landfill is also part of the Dunfermline Recycling Center, so it is unclear where the unused products end up (stock image).
The Lochhead Landfill is also part of the Dunfermline Recycling Center, so it is unclear where the unused products end up (stock image).  © 123RF/Vereshchagin Dmitry

However, an Amazon spokesperson told the news agency that while the investigation followed dump trucks 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 organizations, or recycle any unsold products.

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"No items are sent to a 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 program 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 spokesperson 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.

The Fife Council, who runs Lochhead Landfill, have yet to comment on the debacle, and where the products actually end up.

Cover photo: Collage: 123RF/Aleksandr Papichev & 123RF/rclassenlayouts

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