Amazon destroys millions of brand-new items including televisions, books and nappies it cannot sell, an investigation has revealed.
Lorry-loads of goods, many still in their packaging, are dumped in sprawling landfill sites or incinerated. The shocking waste was revealed by undercover investigators who secretly filmed in one of the multi-billion-pound company’s enormous warehouses.
Reporters posing as Amazon workers discovered an area called the ‘destruction zone’ where they covertly filmed staff loading pristine toys, unused kitchen equipment and flat-screen TVs into skips to be transported to dumps.
Later, cameras fitted to a drone tailed a truck crammed with expensive consumer goods from an Amazon warehouse to a waste disposal centre and on to a landfill site.
The French investigation focused on Amazon’s operation in that country, but it is understood the practice is also followed in Britain. When a Mail on Sunday reporter posing as a worker at an Amazon warehouse in the Midlands asked what happens to unsold goods, a manager told him: ‘Some are returned but some are also destroyed.’
When this newspaper asked the company a series of detailed questions, including whether it destroys unused goods in the UK, it repeatedly refused to answer. Instead, a spokesman said: ‘For unsold products we partner with a number of charities including In Kind Direct, which works with non-profit organisations to distribute goods to charities across the UK.’
In the documentary, company bosses told how the retail giant charges companies £22 for a metre of space to store their products. But that cost leaps to £430 for the same space after six months and £860 after a year.
In one case, a businessman who featured in the programme said Amazon charged his company £17 an item to return goods but just 13p to destroy them. Suppliers say that when their products do not sell they are left with no choice but to pay Amazon to destroy them because they cannot afford to have them returned or continue to be stored.
Pensions Minister Guy Opperman said: ‘Amazon should be completely ashamed of themselves. This is not proper business practice and I would encourage them to review the commercial arrangements they have with their suppliers.’
Labour MP Mary Creagh, chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, added: ‘This is both shocking and heartbreaking to see.