Every year, Amazon destroys about three million unused products in France alone. Unsold goods that have spent too much time in the distribution centres are thrown away.
Unsold supplies thrown onto the dump
An undercover report for Capital, a programme on French TV channel M6, reveals that Amazon's distribution centres destroy unsold products and stock on a large scale. A reporter got a job in the distribution centre in Saran (near Orléans) and encountered containers where unsold products, from toys to TVs, are scrapped.
The products are those offered by external merchants on Amazon's marketplace, and are kept in the distribution centres of the e-commerce giant. The contract between Amazon and its external merchants supposedly states that unsold goods can be returned to the merchant or destroyed. Items that have spent too much time on the shelves are thrown onto the dump.
Union sources say that in the past nine months, 293,000 items have been destroyed in one of Amazon's smallest distribution centres in France (Chalon-sur-Saône). By extrapolation, they assume that some three million products are destroyed across all French distribution centres. This destruction occurs by burning or scrapping in landfills.
France heading for circular economy
The report has caused quite a bit of commotion in France. French Secretary of Environmental Transition Brune Poirson calls the practice "environmentally irresponsible and shocking". The French parliament will soon be voting on a new legislative proposal concerning circular economy. The law will end these sorts of practices Poirson believes.
"Companies such as Amazon will no longer be able to throw away products that can still be used," she continues. Making products unfit for sale will also be illegal, so they will have to come up with different solutions. If they do not, they will be fined. Platforms and marketplaces will be made responsible for what happens when products reach the end of their lives.
Amazon responds that they try to limit returns as much as possible and that many products that are still usable but not resellable are donated to charity organisations. They remain quiet on the topic of unsold supplies. A new petition calls for Amazon to donate reusable items to families in need.