Amazon plans to cut waste following backlash over the destruction of unused products


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Electronic waste is sorted and prepared for further processing reusing.
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LONDON — Amazon has launched two programs as part of an effort to give products a second life when they get returned to businesses that sell items on its platform or fail to get sold in the first place.

The so-called Fulfilment by Amazon programs, announced in a blog post on Wednesday, will help to build a circular economy, the company said.

It comes less than two months after British broadcaster ITV reported that Amazon is destroying millions of items of unsold stock at one of its 24 U.K. warehouses every year, including smart TVs, laptops, drones and hairdryers.

The online giant was sharply criticized by U.K. lawmakers and environmental campaigners at the time and Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to look into the allegations. In a blog post on June 28, Greenpeace said ITV’s investigation showed it was clear Amazon “works with within a business model built on greed and speed.” The group also described the environmental and human cost of Amazon’s wastefulness as “staggering.”

In response, Amazon had said it is working toward a goal of zero product disposal and that no items are currently sent to landfill in the U.K.

The first of Amazon’s new programs, known as “FBA Grade and Resell,” will allow third-party businesses on Amazon to resell returned items as “used” products, Amazon said.

Under the program, returns are automatically routed to Amazon for evaluation. Once the product is received, Amazon decides if it is: “Used – Like New, Used – Very Good, Used – Good, or Used – Acceptable.” Sellers then set the price for the item based on its condition.

Amazon said the program has been launched in the U.K., but it will be expanded to the U.S. by the end of the year. FBA Grade and Resell will be rolled out in Germany, France, Italy and Spain by early 2022.

The company said a separate “FBA Liquidations” program will allow sellers to use Amazon’s “wholesale resale channel and technology” to recover a portion of their inventory cost from returned items and excess stock.

The program is live in the U.S., Germany, France, Italy and Spain, and is set to go live in the U.K. in August.

“Customer returns are a fact of life for all retailers, and what to do with those products is an industry-wide challenge,” Libby Johnson McKee, a director at Amazon, said in a statement. “These new programs are examples of the steps we’re taking to ensure that products sold on Amazon — whether by us or our small business partners — go to good use and don’t become waste.”

McKee added: “We hope these help build a circular economy and reduce our impact on the planet. And we’re excited that these program will also help the businesses selling on Amazon reduce costs and grow their businesses.”

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