Amazon’s outrageous waste practice — and what you can do to stop it

Every year, Amazon destroys unsold and returned products by the millions. It's the pinnacle of unnecessary waste, and it has to stop.

 | 
Aaron Colonnese
Content Creator

Author: Aaron Colonnese

Content Creator

 

Started on staff: 2020
B.A., Brown University

Aaron writes and designs materials with the Creative Team for The Public Interest Network for U.S. PIRG. Aaron lives in Arlington, Massachusetts, and spends his spare time playing drums and going for long walks.

In June 2021, an investigation revealed that Amazon destroys millions of unsold or returned products every year.

TVs, laptops, household items, books and even face masks still sealed in their original packaging — all like-new products that Amazon directs warehouses to destroy rather than reuse or redistribute. One ex-employee says they were told their "target" was to destroy over 100,000 items every week.

It's absurd we even have to say this: The world's biggest retailer shouldn't be destroying unsold or returned products.

Amazon is making a serious problem even worse

Maybe we're being too hard on Amazon. Maybe CEO Andy Jassy and the rest of its leadership doesn't know that the world's waste crisis has resulted in such horrors as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (a mass of garbage soup in the Pacific Ocean twice the size of Texas), not to mention overflowing landfills and trash-ridden open spaces such as parks and beaches.

Maybe the retail giant isn't aware that less than 10% of the plastic that's ever been thrown out has successfully been recycled. Or that toxic electronic waste has become the world's fastest-growing stream of municipal solid waste.

Just kidding.

Any company — especially one that claims to prioritize sustainability — should know the myriad threats that our ever-growing waste problem poses to our communities, our environment and our health. And throwing out millions of perfectly usable or repairable products every year is certainly not helping.

No rhyme or reason

This astounding practice had gone largely unnoticed until former employees at the warehouses came forward and revealed what they had seen.

"I used to gasp. There's no rhyme or reason to what gets destroyed. ... Overall, 50 percent of all items are unopened and still in their shrink wrap. The other half are returns and in good condition. Staff have just become numb to what they are being asked to do."

Most of us were already aware of the harm our throwaway culture does to us and our planet — but this is a whole new level of unnecessary waste, and it needs to stop.

GET INVOLVED
Tell Amazon: Stop shredding unused products

Amazon needs to know that we won't stand by while it destroys and wastes usable products by the millions. Send your message to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy today.

Aaron Colonnese
Content Creator

Author: Aaron Colonnese

Content Creator

 

Started on staff: 2020
B.A., Brown University

Aaron writes and designs materials with the Creative Team for The Public Interest Network for U.S. PIRG. Aaron lives in Arlington, Massachusetts, and spends his spare time playing drums and going for long walks.