Charities have written to the prime minister calling for a new anti-waste, or “Amazon law”, to be introduced in the UK as the online retailer was forced to deny new allegations that it destroys in-date groceries – as well as household goods such as laptops and TVs.
Footage and photographs of Amazon’s Dunfermline depot in Fife, taken by one of its workers, appear to show boxes of groceries, including crisps, tinned food and soft drinks, being earmarked as waste. They include products with intact packaging that have not exceeded their best-before date, according to material shared with The Times newspaper.
The US retailer was already facing scrutiny in the wake of last month’s undercover investigation by ITV News, which showed thousands of non-food products, including laptops, TVs and books, being sorted in the same manner in Dunfermline. The secret filming in an area called the “destruction zone” showed computer equipment, power tools and even sealed face masks being placed into boxes labelled “destroy”.
“The amount of waste is staggering,” the whistleblower told The Times. “I think food banks and charities would gladly accept the mountain of stuff that Amazon is chucking away week in, week out. They could even distribute it among staff. It’s absurd and makes no sense whatsoever.”
In response, Amazon said to “suggest we throw away perfectly good food or drink is wrong”.
“If we can donate it, we donate it,” said a spokesperson. “As our customers would expect, we do not donate food that poses a safety risk. That includes items past their use-by date, that could have been damaged, or that have been returned and we can no longer guarantee their safety or quality.”
The company added that it had supported 23 food banks and charities in the UK and so far this year had donated 2.9m food and drink products.
Greenpeace, which is running an online petition calling for Amazon to stop destroying stock and has dubbed the proposed legislation an “Amazon law”, said the practice appeared to be a “built-in feature” of its business model. “This colossal wastefulness may work well for Jeff Bezos who rakes in the billions, but it leaves our planet poorer,” said John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace.
The letter, signed by representatives of six charities including Greenpeace, the Environmental Investigation Agency, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and Surfers Against Sewage, calls on the government to introduce new rules on what companies can and cannot do with unsold or returned products.
The UK has already adopted EU laws that compel manufacturers to make products easier to repair – the so-called “right to repair” rules that came into effect this month – but the letter urges the government to follow countries such as France where an anti-waste law means companies must donate unsold non-food goods to charity unless they pose a health or safety risk.
“Placing an obligation on companies like Amazon to donate or reuse unsold products will not only reduce waste and spread the societal benefits of these goods at one end of the supply chain,” says the letter. “It will also force companies to look again at any business model predicated on manufacturing mountains of products which are destined to become waste before they are even used once.
“We strongly urge you to work with the devolved administrations to introduce new rules on what companies can and cannot do with unsold or returned products.”