Amazon’s lax waste policy should go to waste

Destroy millions of items in Britain alone, for the opportunity cost of storing them

Jeff Bezos believes that to be successful you have to “create more than you consume.” Unfortunately for the environment, Amazon’s CEO seems to be taking his own advice too literally. British network ITV has found that the e-commerce group is destroying millions of unsold items, counting only Great Britain.

A former employee says the Amazon warehouse in Dunfermline’s weekly goal was to destroy about 130,000 items a week. The ITV footage showed smart TVs, laptops, drones, hair dryers and computer discs placed in boxes marked “destroy.” Greenpeace recently surprised Bezos’ company by doing the same in Germany. Amazon did not respond to requests for comment, but the opportunity cost of taking up scarce shelf space is likely to be the culprit.

However, getting rid of excess material is the antithesis of the “circular economy” concept. This concept recognizes the importance of a sustainable economic system and aims to minimize waste by redesigning products and operations to encourage reuse and recycling. Amazon’s position is also quite peculiar, given its commitment to eliminate net carbon emissions by 2040, a decade before many large companies.

Residue laxity is probably due to two gray areas. Amazon’s platform business model makes obligations less intuitive if the 2 million small and medium-sized businesses that sell their products through its portal are overstocked. Meanwhile, there is no target analogous to net zero emissions for the circular economy and biodiversity.

This could change. If so-called scope 3 emissions from the corporate supply chain can be your problem, so can waste. Companies like Unilever and Danone already have single-use plastics reduction targets. France already prohibits companies from destroying unsold or returned products, and other countries could follow suit. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that Amazon’s behavior was “strange and unacceptable.”

SEE ALSO  Goodbye to slow WiFi: the new WiFi 7 is official and the first devices are arriving

The lack of a target similar to that of net zero emissions is also surmountable. A good start would be to provide transparent numerical information about the waste of the products that Amazon stores for third parties. This would allow a commitment to reduce the problem.
Amazon could wait for the current controversy to subside. Still, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation says that assets managed in public equity funds focused on the circular economy more than multiplied by more than 20, to reach $ 7 billion, between December 2019 and March 2021. It does not seem like a problem that is going to disappear.