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Amazon launches new resale programs to cut down warehouse waste

Investigations revealed it was destroying millions of returned and unsold items

Amazon fulfillment centre
Staff label and package items in the on-site dispatch hall inside one of Britain’s largest Amazon warehouses in Dunfermline, Fife.
Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images

Amazon announced new efforts that might be able to prevent some overstocked and returned items from becoming trash. It launched two new programs that are intended to make it easier for third-party retailers to sell returned goods and unsold inventory.

The moves come in the wake of several separate investigations into Amazon warehouses that found that many returned and unsold items were labeled for destruction. Businesses that use Amazon to sell their products pay to hold their stock in Amazon warehouses. When those goods don’t sell, or if returned items pile up, they might decide to chuck the products to save money.

Amazon’s new “Grade and Resell” initiative will now give third-party sellers in the UK the option to sell stuff that’s been returned as “used.” Sellers can choose to funnel returned items to the new program, where Amazon will give the “used” item a rating: “Like New,” “Very Good,” “Good,” or “Acceptable.” The third-party seller can then set pricing based on the rating and sell it as they would a new item. The program is supposed to be available in the US later this year, Amazon says. It’s also expected to go live in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain by early next year.

Another new program tries to make it easier for sellers to liquidate extra inventory. They can now sell overstocked and returned goods to wholesalers through Amazon. This option is now available in the US, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. It’s scheduled to come to the UK later this month.

A June investigation pulled back the curtain on one “destruction zone” in Amazon’s Dunfermline fulfillment center in Scotland. The e-commerce giant marked millions of unsold products there for destruction each year, British television program ITV News found.

“I used to gasp. There’s no rhyme or reason to what gets destroyed: Dyson fans, Hoovers, the occasional MacBook and iPad; the other day, 20,000 Covid (face) masks still in their wrappers,” said a former Amazon employee who spoke anonymously to ITV News.

In 2019, Amazon started a program for third-party sellers to donate leftover stock in its US and UK warehouses. But far fewer items in Dunfermline were earmarked for donation than for destruction, the ITV News report found.