These are products that could not be sold but are becoming obsolete, or products that have been returned

BRENDAN MCDERMIDREUTERS

Updated Tuesday, June 22, 2021 –
11:23

Televisions, laptops and vacuum cleaners, often in their original packaging and unopened, undertake a weekly journey from various Amazon warehouses to recycling plants for destruction.

The practice is not entirely unfamiliar to other manufacturers and department stores, but it reaches proportions that are difficult to imagine in the case of Amazon, which is the largest e-commerce company in the world. An investigation from the British television network ITV has discovered that from a single warehouse in the United Kingdom, the company can pull 100,000 to 200,000 items per week.

These are products that have not been able to sell but that are becoming obsolete, or products that have been returned within the period that the company accepts changes, but that have not found an exit within the Amazon Warehouse program for refurbished devices.

Former company employees say that the quantity and quality of the products is shocking. Half of the products that are thrown away are in perfect condition, they have never left their original packaging. Go straight from the production line and the warehouse to the trash. The list can include laptops, smart TVs, drones, or phones. On occasion, the company has even gotten rid of iPads or Mac laptops.

ITV, which managed to sneak an undercover reporter into one of Amazon’s 24 UK distribution centers, has managed to capture images of several of the containers being loaded onto trucks for transport to nearby recycling centers or landfills. Products include various wireless headphones, electric razors, massage guns, and DIY tools.

The practice is not unheard of for manufacturers of appliances, clothing, or even other large businesses. Not all the inventory that enters a warehouse or exhibitors ends up being sold and what is not sold takes up valuable space that can be used by new models or other more in-demand products.

Many companies therefore have donations to local NGOs or they give employees the option to buy these products at cost price to get rid of the surplus. Amazon too. The UK warehouse that I was able to access ITV, for example, donates about 30,000 products weekly to different organizations, but the problem is that the scale at which the company operates makes it impossible to get rid of all the leftover goods.

From the NGO Greenpeace they have condemned this practice and ask governments to create laws that prevent this type of practice.

Amazon, for its part, has admitted that its goal is to minimize these types of practices by better adjusting the flow of inventory. An important relief could come thanks to several startups that have emerged in recent months, such as WiBargain or QuickLotz, and that give a twist to the old practice of surprises.

Amazon, Mercari, eBay, and other e-commerce companies are wholesaling (almost by weight) to countries with products that they no longer want to stock or that have been returned but are in good condition. These companies then make boxes of a random collection of products that they send to customers in exchange for a fixed price or a monthly subscription.


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