Defra has warned that, when handling or disposing of waste, businesses have a ‘legal duty’ to adhere to the waste hierarchy, following an investigation that claims Amazon destroys millions of items of unsold stock each year.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that failure to meet the legal obligation to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to apply the waste hierarchy on the transfer of waste can lead to ‘enforcement action’.
The warning comes after hidden filming from inside Amazon’s Dunfermline warehouse revealed smart TVs, laptops, drones, hairdryers, top of the range headphones, computer drives, books and thousands of sealed face masks were all sorted into boxes marked “destroy”.
If a business is going to dispose of goods or waste, it must make all reasonable attempts to adhere to the waste hierarchy as required by law, with prevention and reuse being the priority aims, and energy recovery or landfill being the last resort
According to the ITV investigation, in one week in April, a leaked document from inside the Dunfermline warehouse showed more than 124,000 items marked ‘destroy’.
In contrast, just 28,000 items in the same period were labelled ‘donate’.
In response to the coverage, Defra said it was imperative that we end the ‘throwaway culture’ and recycle more of our waste.
The Defra statement said that when handling or disposing of waste, businesses have a legal duty to adhere to the waste hierarchy. This means businesses should firstly seek to prevent waste (via donations for example), and if that is not feasible, then they should try to prepare the waste for re-use, or failing that, for recycling.
“Only if none of these options are viable should waste be sent to energy-recovery or landfill,” it stated.
Take back service
Current regulations require sellers of electrical equipment to offer a free take-back service for waste electricals or join the Distributor Takeback Scheme to help fund local authority recycling services. Defra says it is reviewing the regulations to see how it can ensure all retailers – including online marketplaces – ‘take greater responsibility’ for electricals.
A Defra spokesperson said: “It is vital that more goods are reused or recycled and not condemned to landfill or incineration. Every item thrown away is a waste of valuable and finite resources, and that is why we are committed to creating a more circular economy for our waste and resources.
“If a business is going to dispose of goods or waste, it must make all reasonable attempts to adhere to the waste hierarchy as required by law, with prevention and reuse being the priority aims, and energy recovery or landfill being the last resort.
“We are also reviewing the regulations for waste electrical equipment to drive up reuse and recycling, encourage better eco-design and ensure manufacturers and retailers – including online marketplaces – take greater responsibility for waste electricals.”