Delivering waste: Amazon tells employees to destroy brand new goods

Online retail giant Amazon is systematically destroying brand new, unsold goods in Germany—and the government and NGOs are not happy about it.

Photos and statements from Amazon’s employees in Germany revealed that goods of all kinds are destroyed or disposed of every day despite being brand new, German media ZDF and WirtschaftsWoche said this week following an investigation.

The list of products seen by the media includes mobile phones, tablets, dishwashers, mattresses, furniture, shoes, cosmetics and even fresh food.

An Amazon employee was quoted as saying that she alone is instructed to destroy goods worth tens of thousands of euro every day. While some may be defective, others are new or working perfectly fine, she said.

Anonymous sources confirmed that it’s standard practice for Amazon to get rid of unsold or returned items in order to make space for new ones in their warehouses. Items are sent to landfills and incinerators or to recycling centres even if they have never been used before.

In a statement, Amazon said that it’s committed to avoiding waste and is working to improve demand forecasts in order to minimise the number of unsold items. The company added that it regularly donates products to non-profit organisations, but did not deny the allegations.

The news has angered the German government and NGOs, which urged Amazon to clarify this issue. Jochen Flasbarth, State Secretary Federal Ministry of the Environment, said: “This is a huge scandal. We are wasting resources despite all the problems in the world. This approach is not in line with our times.

Scrapping new products is a massive waste of resources and is absolutely irresponsible,” Rolf Buschmann, a resource efficiency expert at BUND told Frankfurter Rundschau.

Increasing production and consumption patterns have put a strain on the world’s finite resources and are contributing to increasing pollution and carbon emissions, according to several studies.

In particular, electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream, accounting for 70% of the toxic waste in US landfills.

In Germany, of the 723,000 tonnes of electronic waste collected for treatment, only about 15,000 tonnes are prepared for reuse.

Philipp Sommer, a campaigner at green NGO DUH, told META:

The fact that it is more attractive for companies to destroy new products than to donate or sell them as second-hand goods shows that something is really wrong with the system.

Piotr Barczak, a waste expert at the European Environmental Bureau, suggested that EU governments should set targets for companies and local authorities to prepare discarded items for reuse, especially furniture, textiles and electronic equipment.

The key is to avoid over-production and waste in the first place by putting discarded items back on the market and boost repair for the benefit of the environment, consumers and society as a whole” said Barczak.