This week, news outlets around the world broke a story that has sent shockwaves through the global community. The e-commerce giant company Amazon, it seems, is guilty of a horrific crime: destroying hundreds of thousands of unsold items on a weekly basis.
In a world where sustainability is key, and many destructively-mined resources are running low, such a waste seems unthinkable – let alone something that a big company such as Amazon would engage in on a regular basis. So what is going on – and what can this story tell us about the best way to do business moving forwards?
At the root of the scandal was footage, filmed in a Scottish warehouse, which showed high-value items such as flat screen television screens, laptops and drones, being sorted into boxes marked “Destroy.” And if that wasn’t bad enough, there were even shots of sealed face masks – still in demand in many countries around the world – being consigned to the same fate.
According to sources, these products were items that had either been returned or simply remained unsold. Speaking to the New York Post on Tuesday, one warehouse worker confessed, “I used to gasp. There’s no rhyme or reason to what gets destroyed: Dyson fans, Hoovers, the occasional Macbook and iPad; the other day, 20,000 Covid face masks still in their wrappers.”
But as criticism mounted, Amazon seemed to dodge the issue, focusing instead on what happens to the goods after they are destroyed. In a statement, the retail giant claims, “No items are sent to landfill in the UK. As a last resort, we will send items to energy recovery, but we’re working hard to drive the number of times this happens down to zero.”
Apparently, the reason behind the destruction is relatively simple. For many vendors, the cost of storing their stock in an Amazon warehouse increases over time. And eventually, it becomes cheaper to destroy the items rather than continue to pay. Clearly, though, this is not a sustainable model. So what’s the alternative?
This scandal is just the latest example of why large-scale business models are incompatible with the 21st-century world. With small, independent alternatives, there is no excessive stockpiling of stock – meaning no expensive backlogs to be destroyed. In other words, by supporting local businesses, you can bypass harmful practices such as this one – and become part of the solution, not part of the problem.