Germany wants to ban destruction of merchandise

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The German ministry for the environment wants to bring an end to the destruction of unsold and returned products. Currently, four procent of all returned goods end up as rubbish.


A responsibility for online retailers

Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) is working on a legal framework that will make it mandatory for (online) retailers to take care of their products, aiming to be able to take legal steps against the "immediate destruction of returned items or other new goods," as a spokesperson of Schulze announced in WirtschaftsWoche. The proposal to change the current legislature will soon be released, the spokesperson said.


The ministry also announced an investigation into a possible exemption on turnover tax for goods that have been gifted. The tax raised on goods may be one of the reasons why retailers often do not donate surplus stock, as marketing professor Gino Van Ossel explained on Belgian Radio 1. Other reasons for destruction include the damage to the brand's image and the costs of reprocessing returned products: "Selling a TV at a discount is more expensive than destroying it and selling a new model at full price", the professor said.


4 % of returned items end up as trash

France is already working on a law that forbids destruction of merchandise, after the revelations that Amazon had destroyed millions worth of products last year. Now the Greens are demanding a similar law in Germany. On June 18th, the ministry of environment and consumer protection will be holding a conference on the "challenges of e-commerce for environment and consumer".


According to research by the University of Bamberg, one in six internet orders in Germany are returned. Four procent of those items ultimately end up as trash. In clothing and shoes, almost half of all parcels are sent back.


Gino Van Ossel believes only a European approach will make a difference: "You can not do much on the national level: companies will simply transport those goods to other countries and destroy them there. You have to regulate this at a European level and talk to the industry."