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Amazon bosses in Scotland condemned for ‘obscene’ levels of waste

An investigation at one of its Scottish warehouses found the online retail giant is destroying millions of items every year

AMAZON bosses in Scotland have been condemned for their “obscene” levels of waste after an investigation at one of its Scottish warehouses found the online retail giant is destroying millions of items every year.

Products including smart TVs, laptops, drones, hairdryers and thousands of sealed face masks were found by ITV News to have been sorted into boxes marked “dispose” at the transnational’s “fulfilment centre” in Dunfermline. 

A document leaked to investigators showed more than 124,000 items were marked “destroy” during one week in April, compared with just 28,000 items in the same period labelled “donate.”

One former Amazon employee in Fife, who spoke to ITV journalists anonymously, said management’s “target was to generally destroy 130,000 items a week” at the site, one of 24 such warehouses across Britain. 

They said: “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 per cent of all items are unopened and still in their shrink wrap. The other half are returns and in good condition.”

The waste was found to be thrown into vast bins, carried away by lorries and dumped at either recycling centres or a landfill site.

Those representing workers in Dunfermline and at other Amazon sites across the country have said the investigation underlines bosses’ prioritisation of profit. 

GMB national officer Mick Rix said: “This outrageous waste shows Amazon’s commitment to the environment and saving the planet are nothing more than hot air.

“These revelations are further proof, if it were needed, of Amazon’s obsession with putting profits before anything else, whether that’s the safety of its own workforce or the planet itself.”

Politicians for the area have hit out at the astonishing level of waste, particularly given Amazon’s financial returns throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mark Ruskell, Fife MSP and Scottish Greens environment spokesman, 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 corporation finds it more profitable to put unused items in the bin than help people out.

“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.”

Amazon denied that items were disposed of in this way, despite ITV following the lorries to a landfill site in Fife. 

A spokesman also maintained this was a last resort for the company, denying it was cheaper to dispose of the items than return them to the domestic sellers.

He said: “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.

“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.”

A new poll reveals strong support for Unite’s campaign to secure trade union rights for directly employed Amazon staff and for workers in the gig economy. 

The research, conducted by Survation, found the public are now likely to view Amazon workers as “key workers.”

Three quarters of those polled also believe that Amazon workers should be able to join a trade union if they choose without interference, and that the firm has a responsibility to provide fair working conditions.

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