An undercover investigation at the Amazon Dunfermline warehouse has led to suggestions the company destroys millions of unsold items every year.
Undercover footage obtained by ITV shows high-value items like smart TVs, laptops and drones being sorted into boxes labelled “destroy” at the Amazon Fulfilment Centre in Dunfermline.
One anonymous former employee told the news channel 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 (face) masks still in their wrappers.
“Overall, 50% of all items are unopened and still in their shrink wrap. The other half are returns and in good condition.”
It has led to the company’s practices being branded “obscene” by Scottish Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Mark Ruskell.
One leaked document showed that during one week in April Amazon staff had a target to destroy 130,000 items.
In the same period 28,000 items were marked for donation to charity and other good causes, according to the document.
Products ending up in the destruction zone at the Dunfermline warehouse included new and unused items, ITV news said.
But Amazon insisted that whilst the footage shared by ITV showed lorries taking the items to nearby Lochhead Landfill, they were, in fact, recycled.
An Amazon spokesperson told The Courier: “We are working towards a goal of zero product disposal and our priority is to resell, donate to charitable organisations or recycle any unsold products.
“No items are sent to 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 programme with the aim of reducing returns, reusing and reselling products, and reducing disposals.”
The company also denied it was cheaper to dispose of the items instead of returning them to the sellers.
Mark Ruskell, Scottish Greens environment spokesman and Mid Scotland and Fife MSP, said: “Amazon’s net profit has soared during this crisis while many people have struggled to make ends meet.
“It’s therefore obscene that this multibillion-pound corporation finds it more profitable to put unused items in the bin than help people out.
This shocking revelation shows that governments must do more to force companies to design waste out of their systems…”
“It is a damning indictment of our economy that the throwaway culture is put before people’s needs.
“Even if it is not reflective of wider Amazon policy, the company must answer for why the Dunfermline warehouse has such high levels of waste and so little is resold or given to charities.
“This shocking revelation shows that governments must do more to force companies to design waste out of their systems, with regulation and fines where they are failing to do the right thing.”
The 93,000 square metre Amazon facility in Dunfermline packs and distributes Amazon packages for delivery across Scotland and the North of England.
Standing at the size of around 14 football pitches, the warehouse is a major employer in Fife with hundreds of staff required for the round-the-clock operation.
Chief Executive Officer Robin Baird confirmed that Amazon use the Lochhead site for their recycling needs.
He added: “We operate a state of the art recycling facility where all suitable material is sorted and recycled. Any waste product is then sent to our Energy from Waste (EfW) outlet.”