Environmental activists Greenpeace say they have again found Amazon to be destroying unsold goods, including garments, at a facility in Germany, flouting recently passed laws.
A Greenpeace researcher worked for several weeks as an employee at an Amazon logistics centre in Winsen, during which time he saw Amazon preparing unsold, packed goods for destruction at one of eight workstations the online retail giant calls “Destroy Stations”, the environmental activists claim.
Greenpeace says it has documentation that shows how new products, such as textiles, are to be destroyed in the logistics warehouse before being picked up by waste disposal companies.
The discovery comes despite new laws being passed by the Bundestag last year prohibiting retailers from destroying new goods, such as customer returns and overstocked items, that are as good as new.
According to Greenpeace, in February 2020, the first paper with key points for a ban on the destruction of new goods, together with transparency requirements, was published. In October 2020, the amendment to the circular economy law were due to come into force, together with the ‘Obhutspflicht’, a national authorisation according to which no more products that are suitable for use may be destroyed.
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The activists say, however, that the implementation of the law has not been criminally enforced by the competent authorities.
“Amazon is already planning to undermine the Resource Protection Act before the Environment Ministry even manages to enforce it,” says Viola Wohlgemuth, consumption and toxics campaigner. “Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze has to act, because saving resources is saving the climate. Destroying new goods must become a criminal offence during this legislative period.”
In July 2019, Greenpeace activists demonstrated on Amazon Prime Day at the Winsen an der Luhe logistics centre against the destruction of new goods. It claimed that around one-third of the goods returned in Germany from online trade were not sold directly again and some were destroyed.
Greenpeace claims that later in the year an investigation found Amazon – despite public statements to the contrary – was systematically destroying not only returns, but also new goods. It found that in the logistics centre in Winsen alone, which does not handle returns, a truckload of stock was being destroyed each week, Greenpeace says.
An Amazon spokesperson told just-style the company is working towards zero product destruction.
“Our approach is to build a multi-faceted, circular economy programm with the goal of reducing returns overall, reusing and reselling products, and destroying as few products as possible. Only if there is no other option (for example, due to hygienic reasons or because they are damaged) we will send products – as our preferred options – for recycling or energy recovery, or to a landfill as a last resort. These options remain the last resort and is least attractive for us – ecologically and economically. In fact, the number of products sold and shipped by Amazon that we need to destroy is well under 1%.
“There is no business practice in place to cut up items before handing them over to a disposal company and there did and does not exist plans to introduce such a system. We clearly reject these accusations. We had an initial test run with a new partner in Winsen at the end of 2020 to ensure that they can recycle the garments we provide. For this test we had to provide for one time unusable goods. Since then, the recycling programme successfully launched and all the provided materials are turned into new goods.
“Amazon complies with its duties of care with regard to the goods distributed and has implemented measures to avoid the destruction of goods as far as possible.”