A French documentary film crew has captured video of Amazon workers trashing crates of unused, unopened products like diapers, toys, kitchen appliances, and even expensive electronics.
The filmmakers, who went undercover as workers at a French warehouse facility, documented actual Amazon employees bringing countless items to an area they called the “destruction zone.” There, the items were packaged for transport and taken to a local disposal center. Drone footage captured a truck’s route, which ultimately ended at a landfill where the pristine, fully-wrapped products were dumped.
The documentary, which was broadcast on French television, showed investigators discovering official data from Amazon showing that more than 3 million unused products were destroyed in France just last year.
While the reporting centered on the company’s French operations, the Daily Mail did some digging of its own in the U.K., finding that the allegations may be more than an anomaly.
The Mail deployed a decoy worker, who discovered that the same practices prevailed in a British distribution center. When a reporter asked an Amazon warehouse manager what happens to unsold goods, he replied that while some are returned to Amazon’s brand partners, “some are also destroyed.” Amazon did not respond to the allegations directly, but insisted that the company partners with charitable organizations to distribute unsold goods in the U.K.
The French documentary captured conversations with warehouse workers explaining that Amazon charges companies a premium for space in its warehouses, leaving them in a bind when products don’t sell. Managers from Amazon’s retail partners detailed an arrangement where the company charges 22 pounds ($28.27) for one meter of space to store their products. The cost jumps to 430 pounds ($552.58) for the same space after six months, and climbs to 860 pounds ($1,105.16) after a year.
While those products could be returned to sellers for a hefty per-item fee, Amazon offers to destroy or dispose of space-wasting product at a lower rate.
One supplier told the filmmakers that Amazon offered to return its goods for 17 pounds ($21.85) per item, but said it would dispose of the same items for just ($16.71) each. Multiple suppliers told the French journalists that they paid Amazon to destroy products because they couldn’t afford to keep them at the company’s warehouses, or to have them shipped back.
Labour party member Mary Creagh, a member of Parliament and chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, told the Mail that she was heartbroken and shocked by Amazon’s actions in the U.K. and France. “At a time when millions are struggling to make ends meet and afford everyday essentials, it is scandalous that unused products are simply being destroyed when they could be given to people in need,” she said.
“Amazon has been criticized before for its wasteful packaging and pollution from deliveries, and now we’re seeing evidence which suggests it is choosing to destroy perfectly good products too,” Craig Bennett, chief executive of Friends of the Earth told the Mail. The international network of environmental organizations serves 74 countries across the globe.
“Not only is this likely adding to polluting landfill, electronics take huge amounts of water and resources to produce and are responsible for climate-wrecking emissions when they’re shipped,” Bennett said.
Amazon did not immediately respond to Sourcing Journal’s request for comment.