Amazon to be investigated over claims it destroys millions of Fife warehouse's unsold goods

Amazon will be investigated by Scotland's environment watchdog over claims millions of surplus goods from its flagship Fife warehouse are destroyed each year.

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Calls have been made for the online retailer to be stripped of public subsidies after it emerged unsold items from its distribution centre in Dunfermline – including televisions, laptops, books and face masks – are sent to be processed at a landfill site, according to a report in The Sunday Times.

Amazon said items were marked for recycling but admitted on Friday some were incinerated to produce renewable energy.

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An Amazon voucher. Picture: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty ImagesAn Amazon voucher. Picture: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
An Amazon voucher. Picture: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Ministers have asked the Scottish Environment Protection Agency(SEPA) to meet Amazon, which reported record sales in the UK last year of £19.4 billion, as a matter of urgency.

They are also exploring ways to ban wasteful practices under a forthcoming Circular Economy Bill.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon, who sits on Holyrood's net zero, energy and transport committee, indicated support for parliamentary scrutiny of Amazon, which received more than £6 million from Scottish Enterprise to help establish its Dunfermline site.

The US company also received £4.7m from the Scottish Government last year for web services.

Mark Ruskell, Scottish Green Party MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said: “Every penny of public investment needs to support a green recovery instead of undermining it.”

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The backlash followed an ITV investigation which revealed unsold goods were labelled for destruction at the warehouse and taken to a Lochhead site, which operates an “energy from waste” plant.

The issue was raised in parliament with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who said the SNP was committed to a circular economy and that fair work conditions were attached to any grants from Scottish Enterprise.

Green campaigners highlight countries like France, where supermarkets are obliged by law to give unsold food to charities.

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Richard Dixon, Friends of the Earth Scotland director, said: “Clearly we urgently need a similar law here to stop this insane wastefulness.

“Many people have relied on Amazon through the lockdowns but nobody understood this incredible hidden price.”

Neale Hanvey, Fife Alba MP, said Amazon should donate any unsold goods to good causes.

He added: “When so many people are struggling to cope with the cumulative impacts of austerity, Brexit and the pandemic, Amazon's actions are reminiscent of the vulgar decadence and indifference of Marie Antoinette.”

Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man with a fortune estimated at £140bn, has been accused of failing to protect employees.

In March, trade union Unite opened a hotline for Amazon staff in Scotland to blow the whistle on poor treatment and working practices.

Sharon Graham, Unite national officer, said: “There is going to be a reckoning with Amazon.

“Their cuddly TV adverts are about how they love the world and what a joy it is to work there. The reality, as the facts of Dunfermline show, is they care little for the environment.”

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Amazon says it’s committed to reducing waste and helping to build a circular economy.

The company said: “We do not send any items to landfill in the UK and to suggest otherwise is untrue.

“Our priority is to resell, donate or recycle any unsold products. 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.”

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