An ITV News investigation has uncovered how Amazon is destroying millions of items of unsold stock every year - products that are often new and unused - in one of its UK warehouses. Here is how our investigation unfolded.
ITV News' exposé all comes down to one man. Our eyes within. We will call him Peter.He contacted ITV News directly after seeing an earlier investigation we did into working practices at Amazon. Peter felt angry about that, but he felt even more angry about what he was seeing every day while working in Amazon’s Dunfermline warehouse, the main UK centre for the return of unwanted stock.
For months, he had been documenting the astonishing amount of this unwanted stock heading to a recycling and landfill site.Peter secretly filmed footage on his phone that showed TVs, laptops, shavers, drones, books, face masks, the list is almost endless, many new, almost all reusable and redistributable, every single one marked “destroy.”
Exclusive: Watch footage showing the 'destruction zone' in Amazon's Dunfermline warehouse where millions of unsold items are destroyed every year
Most crucially, he had captured an image of a spreadsheet showing one week’s target in April that earmarked 124,000 items to be destroyed. That gave us the proof we needed. But where did it all go? Peter watched the endless boxes of goods loaded onto a particular vehicle and checked the registration. All we had to do was follow it.
We did so, and after about an hour’s driving the electrical goods arrived at a waste recycling centre. As we jumped out to film, the lorry went in, turned around in a minute, and headed off again having dropped nothing off. The man at the gate claimed this was normal procedure. We suspected not.So we followed it again at a distance. It drove 30 minutes to Glasgow in one direction, went round a roundabout without stopping, and came back to exactly the same place. Now our cameras weren’t at the front gate, in it went and unloaded. They didn’t, at that stage at least, spot our drone getting the shots of the huge pallets being taken off the lorry.Peter's information revealed that lorries carrying non-electrical goods went to a separate landfill site and recycling site. Just think of the books that could have been read, the face masks (still in their shrink wrappers) that could have been worn. Amazon denies it sends any items to landfill in the UKAmazon as a company is generally very camera shy, unless it wants to promote something.
At the end of May, it did. A shiny new fulfilment centre being built in Gateshead, together with an interview with its UK boss John Boumphrey.The interview was some six weeks before this investigation would be broadcast, but too good an opportunity to miss. Our business editor Joel Hills pressed Mr Boumphrey on the amount of stock that is destroyed.
"Extremely small," he said definitively. This is the first time what goes on in the “the destruction zone” has been filmed in the UK, and perhaps the first time anywhere the extent of the waste has been numerically documented. Amazon has been previously accused of similar practices in France, but because of one British man’s bravery, perhaps this is the biggest light yet shone on the company's environmental failings.