Happy Prime Day

U.K. exposé reveals Amazon is destroying millions of unused items annually


How many items are earmarked to be "destroyed" on average each week.

ITV News

Canva / Author

We have officially entered into our annual Bezos Bacchanaliaaka that most American of holidays — Prime Day, and amidst all those sweet, sweet deals, it’s important to take a moment to remember just how unnervingly, banally evil Amazon manages to be on a literal weekly basis. Case in horrifying point: Newly released undercover footage courtesy of the British outlet ITV News showcases the company’s absurdly wasteful policy of straight-up destroying hundreds of thousands of both unsold and returned-but-functional products. Every. Single. Week.

“Amazon’s entire business model relies on availability and speed of delivery. So if you’re a vendor, you pay to store with them. The longer those goods remain unsold, the higher the cost of those prices. At a point, it becomes uneconomical to do that,” ITV News business correspondent, Richard Pallot, explained during an interview, at which time these thousands of perfectly usable, often new items — including computers, tablets, home products, and even sealed COVID-19 face masks — are loaded onto transport trucks and taken to waste centers and landfill sites. “What happens from there is still a gray area,” Pallot says.

According to an anonymous ex-employee speaking to ITV, workers could generally expect to dispose of between 130,000 and 200,000 products every week. Internal documents showed that, during one week last April, 124,000 items in a spreadsheet were Bond villainously-labelled “Destroy,” while just 28,000 were designated “Donate.”

Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images/Denver Post/Getty Images

The policy is totally legal — Apparently, such an obscene policy of unethical waste is technically not illegal in the U.K., although British officials interviewed for ITV’s report promised to look into the situation after being confronted by the unequivocal evidence. The bombshell is “an indictment of a consumerist society,” according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who’s promised his government “will look into it".

"I know that Amazon is committed to net zero, they’ve committed huge amounts of investment to the rainforest, to keeping the rainforest going and I’m surprised," British Secretary of Labor Kwasi Kwarteng said in an interview before hedging with claims he hasn’t seen the full report yet, but thinks “Amazon should do the right thing and it would be very disappointing if this is true."

We tacitly encouraged this — Of course, Amazon’s entire history has shown anyone paying any attention that this is par for the course for the company. After all, when the man running your business is so wealthy it should be deemed a crime against humanity, why not throw in laying waste to the environment to boot?

Hopefully, ITV’s exposé will bring about some manner of reform, at least across the pond. It remains to be seen what will happen stateside, although we shudder to think of the scale of similar destruction policies here in America.