FMQs: Lorna Slater urges Nicola Sturgeon to cut government funding for Amazon following shocking waste reveal in Dunfermline

Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater has urged Nicola Sturgeon and her government to stop providing subsidies to Amazon after it was revealed the company is destroying millions of unsold new items.

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 4:59 pm

The Green MSP challenged the First Minister during FMQs in Parliament, urging her to introduce “robust laws” to prevent waste in the future after an ITN News investigation revealed up to 124,000 items a week were being destroyed at the Dunfermline Amazon warehouse alone.

She said the Scottish Government, in the last financial year, has given the multi-billion pound company £4.7 million for web services.

Speaking to MSPs Slater said: “This is not the first time Scottish Greens have challenged the government on the levels of subsidy given to Amazon.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

An undercover report by ITV News shows around 130,000 unsold items, including smart TVs, drones, laptops and vacuum cleaners, are being binned each week at Amazon's Dunfermline depot
An undercover report by ITV News shows around 130,000 unsold items, including smart TVs, drones, laptops and vacuum cleaners, are being binned each week at Amazon's Dunfermline depot

"As well as avoiding tax and the appalling treatment of workers, we now know this company would rather scrap millions of new items rather than give them to people in need.

“This is a time when public money should be going to small companies and those who need to recover from the pandemic, not to a mega corporation whose net profits were over $20 billion in 2020 alone.”

Ms Sturgeon responded saying she will investigate the level of financial support the Scottish Government is providing to Amazon and said this week’s reports on the company’s volume of waste destroyed at the Dunfermline warehouse “raises questions.”

Speaking to MSPs the First Minister said: “We will continue to make sure that any taxpayer money that is going to businesses is not just about creating jobs but creating fair jobs, and that companies are being challenged as well as supported.”

She added: “I do think governments have to do more to persuade companies to cut down on waste and to become much more responsible, environmentally, but I don’t think any company the size and scale of Amazon should need a government to tell it that it shouldn’t be destroying large amounts of things that could be given to people in need.

“So I hope Amazon will reflect on that.

"There’s a big challenge for governments across the world on resolving waste, and I hope Scotland will lead by example.”

An ITN News investigation earlier this week revealed brand new laptops, smart TVs, drones and other gadgets are among millions of unsold items are being binned by Amazon each year.

Secret footage uncovered the scale of the waste, showing 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.

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 so, 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.

The findings have sparked an outcry among environmentalists.

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.”

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.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.