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Amazon Under Fire for Destroying “Massive Amounts” of Usable Products

Amazon is destroying “massive amounts” of as-new and returned products in Germany on a daily basis and not just for sanitary reasons, according to WirtschaftsWoche, a local business weekly.

One Amazon warehouse employee said she has personally destroyed reusable goods worth tens of thousands of euros, including kitchen appliances, consumer electronics, mattresses and furniture.

While Amazon Germany didn’t dispute the allegations, the online retailer said it remains committed to destroying as “few goods as possible” through channels such as resale, charity and liquidation.

“When products can’t be sold, resold or donated, we turn to wholesale buyers who can use these products,” the company added.

Manufacturers and vendors may also ask Amazon to destroy unsold warehouse inventory, per Amazon’s service overview in Germany. The retailer actively obliges these requests, according to internal documents obtained by WirtschaftsWoche. Products such as children’s tennis shoes, headphones and “hundreds of other goods” are stored in warehouses for a single day, then marked for destruction, WirtschaftsWoche said.

The report has drawn the ire of German officials and environmental campaigners alike.

“This is a huge scandal,” Jochen Flasbarth, an undersecretary in Germany’s Ministry of the Environment, told WirtschaftsWoche. “We are consuming these resources despite all the problems in the world. This approach is not in step with our times.”

Kirsten Brodde, a senior campaigner with Greenpeace, said laws need to be made to ban the “waste and destruction of firsthand and usable goods,” perhaps by following the example of France, which is poised to ban retailers from throwing away unsold garments.

That these revelations stemmed from Germany is surprising in light of Politico’s recent circular economy rankings. Germany, the news site said, leads the European Union with its “robust” recycling system and high levels of innovation.

Germans are also known for their diligence when it comes to recycling. Only 5 percent of the country’s waste goes to landfill—65 percent gets recycled and 30 percent is converted to energy.