Secret footage filmed in a Scottish distribution centre has uncovered the scale of the waste, with a staggering 124,000 items being destroyed each week at Amazon’s Dunfermline warehouse alone.
The report shows piles of stock, including hairdryers, hi-spec headphones, computer drives, books, jewellery, and thousands of sealed face masks – often new and nearly always unused – being sorted into boxes marked for disposal.
The products were never sold or returned by customers.
Almost all could have been redistributed to charities or those in need.
Instead, they are thrown into vast bins, then transported in trucks to be dumped at recycling centres.
And the shocking wastage happening in Dunfermline is just the tip of the iceberg.
Amazon operates 24 fulfilment centres across the UK.
Workers have expressed horror at what they were required to do.
A former employee at Amazon in Dunfermline, who did not wish to be identified, told ITV News: “From a Friday to a Friday, our target was to generally destroy 130,000 items a week.
“I used to gasp. There’s no rhyme or reason to what gets destroyed.
“Dyson fans or Hoovers, the occasional MacBook and iPad.
“The other day, 20,000 Covid masks, still in their wrappers.
“Overall, 50 per cent 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.”
Leaked documents from inside the Dunfermline warehouse, obtained by ITV News, show that in just one week in April more than 124,000 items were marked to be destroyed.
In contrast, the documents also revealed just 28,000 items were sent for ‘donate’ in the same seven-day period.
Amazon’s successful business model has been blamed for the problem – many sellers choose to house their products in Amazon’s vast warehouses, but are charged more to store them the longer the goods remain unsold.
Eventually it is cheaper to dump them.
Amazon’s disposal practices do not break any UK laws, but the findings raise serious questions about the retail giant’s environmental and ethical practices.
In a statement responding to the investigation, an Amazon spokesperson said: “We are working towards a goal of zero product disposal and our priority is to resell, donate to charitable organisations or recycle any unsold products.
“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.
“We are committed to reducing our environmental footprint and building a circular economy programme with the aim of reducing returns, reusing and reselling products and reducing disposals.”
Environmentalists have reacted angrily to the revelations.
Sam Chetan-Welsh, political advisor to campaign group Greenpeace UK, said: “This is an unimaginable amount of unnecessary waste.
“It's just shocking to see a company making billions in profits getting rid of brand-new stock in this way.”
The full report, by business correspondent Richard Pallot, will air on Monday on ITV’s Evening News and News at Ten.