Amazon is destroying unsold items such as electronics and facemasks at its Dunfermline fulfilment centre, according to a new report.

Amazon Warehouse with parcel on conveyorbelt

An investigation by ITV News has indicated that new and unused stock was being destroyed in one of the tech giant’s 24 UK fulfilment centres in Scotland.

The discovery was made during the filming of an undercover report into working conditions at the company’s Dunfermline warehouse. Electronics, books and facemasks were among the items placed into boxes that were marked ‘destroy’.

ITV News also tracked the movement of these containers following their departure from the fulfilment centre. The goods were left at recycling centres or landfill sites.

The footage illustrated that these items were unopened or were returns that had not yet been used, leading to questions around the sheer volume of waste the tech giant is responsible for.

A blow to Amazon’s sustainability aims


Face masks were among items destroyed

A document from the warehouse that was leaked to ITV News revealed that in one week, 124,000 items within the fulfilment centre were singled out to be destroyed. In the same week, 28,000 items were chosen to be donated.

Critics have linked the destruction of products to the overall unsustainability of Amazon’s business model. It is often cheaper for third party vendors who opt to store their stock in these warehouses to destroy it rather than to store them there as companies are charged more for the storage of unsold goods.

A former employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “From a Friday to Friday our target was to generally destroy 130,000 items a week. 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.

Staff apparently shocked at the waste

“Overall, 50 percent of all items are unopened and still in their shrink wrap. The other half are returns and in good condition. Staff have just become numb to what they are being asked to do.”

The investigation’s findings came on the same day that Amazon was announced as the world’s most valuable brand in Kantar’s BrandZ 2021 report. 

In response to the investigation’s findings, Amazon 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.

‘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.”