The reported destruction of unsold items by Amazon “raises real questions” about the acceptability of the practice, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
It comes after an investigation at one of Amazon’s Scottish warehouses suggested the online retail giant is destroying millions of items every year.
ITV News found items, including smart TVs, laptops, drones, hairdryers and thousands of sealed face masks, were sorted into boxes marked “destroy” at the Amazon Fulfilment Centre in Dunfermline, Fife.
The issue was raised by Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater at First Ministers’ Questions at Holyrood on Thursday.
Slater called for the company to be stripped of all Scottish subsidies and procurement contracts in light of the reports.
Sturgeon explained the Scottish Government attaches fair working conditions to all of the grant support that its enterprise agencies gives.
The First Minister also said the government would continue to ensure that any taxpayer money going to businesses is about “creating fair jobs”, and that companies are being “challenged as well as supported”.
She said: “Clearly, I’m not responsible for the practices of Amazon, but we had a report just yesterday from Zero Waste about consumption and about the need to become much more sustainable as a country and as a society.
“We all have a duty to do that, but companies certainly do and destroying things in the way that has been reported this week I do think raises real questions about the acceptability of that.”
Slater said that it is “shocking” that items are being destroyed, rather than being given to those in need.
She: “Only yesterday, the minister told me that he wants to see public money going to companies that treat their employees well.
“Public money should be going to small companies and those who need it to recover from the pandemic. At the heart of this obscene level of waste is an economy that puts a disposable, throwaway culture ahead of the needs of people and planet.
“It is shocking that a company of this size would rather destroy new items than give them away to people in need.
“This shocking revelation underlines that governments must do more to force companies to reduce waste with regulation and fines where they are failing to act.
“Will the First Minister commit to enshrining the circular economy in robust laws that will prevent such needless volumes of waste in the future?”
Sturgeon responded: “I think our commitments to a circular economy and legislating for a circular economy are known and I look forward to taking that forward with cooperation across the Parliament.
“I agree with the comments in terms of what’s been reported about Amazon. I do think governments have to do more to persuade everybody to lead by example, to persuade individuals and certainly to persuade companies to cut down on waste and to become much more responsible environmentally more generally.
“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 actually be, Lorna Slater’s right, given to people in need.
“So, I would hope Amazon will reflect very carefully on that.”
The First Minister added: “There’s a big challenge for all governments right across the world on this and Scotland, I hope, will lead by example.”
A statement from Amazon issued on Wednesday 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.”