Black Friday XR blockade at Amazon warehouse in Bristol

  • Watch video from the scene in Avonmouth

Extinction Rebellion has staged a blockade at an Amazon warehouse in Bristol as part of an international Black Friday protest.

XR activists have been blocking off the Avonmouth site since around 4am, obstructing two access roads while tying themselves to bamboo towers and scaffolding structures.

The site is one of 13 Amazon-owned distribution centres which have been targeted across the country, as well as others in the US, Germany and the Netherlands.

Campaigners hope to disrupt the business and force Amazon to change its existing climate policies.

  • 'We can't stand by' - XR protester on why she is taking part in the blockade

In 2019, the company pledged to become a net-zero carbon emitter by 2040 - but Extinction Rebellion argues no evidence has been supplied to show how this will be achieved.

In 2021, an ITV News investigation revealed Amazon routinely destroys millions of items of unsold stock every year, products that are often new and unused.

Employee footage showed hundreds of items including cans of soup and baked beans, multipacks of unopened crisped, bottled water, instant noodles and coffee pods - all still in their original seals, in vast bins labelled ‘waste’.

  • Watch: Unsold stock destroyed

Employees from eight different Amazon warehouses claimed they destroy new and unsold product as part of their job.

In response, Amazon said they do not donate sealed food which has been returned or left their warehouses because they cannot guarantee its safety.  

Lorry drivers have been prevented from entering the warehouse because of the blockade of activists.

Speaking to ITV News, one said he had been working since 8.30pm from the previous evening and is being stopped from completing his final drop.

He said: "I am trying to go home but I can’t obviously.

"Why are they not going to work? We pay taxes for these people and we can’t go home [because of them].

"Ask them how many times these people buy anything from Amazon. They probably buy something from them every month."

  • Lorry drivers left angry by blockade

Another driver said: "I suppose it’s the right and the wrong time at the minute because a lot of people rely on this time of year with Black Friday and Christmas presents.

"It’s a wee bit awkward for us because we have loads on and we need to get on with the next job.

"I’m going to have to wait here and I can’t do anything about it unless they send me to a different warehouse. I don’t know what’s going to happen.

"Everybody has their own right for what they believe in but it’s just awkward for workers and the likes of myself.

"We’re assigned to get jobs done and go home then you get held up and don’t need this hassle."

Extinction Rebellion activist Gaie Delap, who is 74 years old and from Montpelier in Bristol, said: "International businesses of this scale cannot be allowed to be laws unto themselves.

"Their leaders bear the same responsibility as national governments. We all understand that this kind of super-consumption is unnecessary and destructive.

"And a growing number of businesses are distancing themselves from Black Friday, a day that will contribute to a surge in vehicle and carbon emissions.

Extinction Rebellion protesters are planning to stay on the site until Sunday 28 November Credit: ITV West Country

"Two weeks after the end of COP26, it is truly shocking that Amazon is actively promoting Black Friday. This is a US 'shopping holiday' which Amazon itself introduced into the UK in 2010.

"We will not achieve the radical reductions in carbon emissions that COP26 clearly showed are necessary by just continuing 'business as usual'.

"If we want to save the Amazon rainforest, we have to target mega-retailer Amazon."

A spokesperson for Amazon said: "At Amazon, we take our responsibilities very seriously.

"That includes our commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040 - 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement - providing excellent pay and benefits in a safe and modern work environment, and supporting the tens of thousands of British small businesses who sell on our store.

"We know there is always more to do, and we’ll continue to invent and invest on behalf of our employees, customers, small businesses and communities in the UK.

"We’re proud to have invested £32bn in the UK since 2010, creating 10,000 new permanent jobs across the country this year alone, and generating a total UK tax contribution of £1.55bn in 2020."

In a statement, Extinction Rebellion said: "In 2018 Amazon’s own research showed that its activities were responsible for emitting 44.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents into the atmosphere – roughly equal to the annual emissions of Norway.

"In 2019 Amazon pledged to be a net zero carbon emitter by 2040. But there is no evidence for how that goal will be achieved and the pledge does not include Amazon’s supply chain, which accounts for up to 75% of its emissions.

"In 2020 the corporation’s carbon emissions increased by a further 19%, to 60.64 million metric tonnes - the same as Austria."

Mary Greenfield from Extinction Rebellion South West said: "We cannot continue with an economic system that forces young people to face inhumane working conditions at companies like Amazon, while their futures are destroyed by climate collapse.