Waste Legislation

Amazon to introduce new waste policy

The global online retailer was discovered to have sent millions of unsold and unused items to landfill. Now, Amazon is instituting programmes to render reselling of said goods easier.

The online global retailer has announced a policy change after a recent ITV investigation exposed its wasteful practices with regards to unsold products.

In the UK, Amazon was found to have marked non-food items such as books, laptops and TV’s in boxes with the word ‘destroy’, the stock in question being destined for recycling centres or for a waste disposal centre with a landfill site. (124,000 items alone were transported to said site from one warehouse alone.)

The online giant had previously denied the charge of dumping its products-many still unopened and  in their original packaging.

Now, Amazon has launched two Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) programmes to countermand its existing waste policy.

The “FBA Grade and Resell” programme allows sellers to resell returned items as “used” – it is now available in the UK and will be available in the US by the end of the year and in Germany, France, Italy and Spain by early 2022.

The “FBA Liquidations” Programme helps sellers recover value from their excess inventory, occasioned by customers retuning items whilst also saving sellers from paying for obsolete inventory items in Amazon warehouses.

Libby Johnson, director of Amazon VW Returns, ReCommerce and Sustainability, had this to say on the new policies: “Customer returns are a fact of life for all retailers, and what to do with those products is an industry-wide challenge.”

“These new programmes are examples of the steps we’re taking to ensure that products sold on Amazon—whether by us or our small business partners—go to good use and don’t become waste.

“Along with existing programmes like FBA Donations, we hope these help build a circular economy and reduce our impact on the planet.

“And we’re excited that these programmes will also help the businesses selling on Amazon reduce costs and grow their businesses—it’s a win for our partners, customers, and communities.”

Amazon faced wide ranging backlash from multiple quarters after its UK waste management strategy came to light this past June.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially termed the retailer’s waste handling practice, which entails sending unused computers to landfill, ‘bizarre and unacceptable’.

In the wake of these allegations, representatives of six of the largest UK environmental organisations including Greenpeace, the Environmental Investigation Agency as well as Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland petitioned the government to adopt an anti-waste law that will require companies to reuse or donate unsold items.

E-commerce is considered a major environmental hazard. The pandemic related online sales boom has led retailers to build more warehouses to meet rising demands. Customer expectations with regards to easy returns have contributed to a spike in waste and carbon emissions.