From a very young age, we are all taught to recycle. In schools, community centres, hospitals, restaurants and business centres, we see the blue bin that represents recycling. Imagine if everyone would realize the importance of recycling. Imagine if recycling was the building blocks to repair our damaged Earth. Recycling is one of the simplest considerate actions we can do to preserve this planet for future generations. Unfortunately, this is not the case with one of the biggest companies in the world. A recent undercover investigation in an Amazon warehouse in Dunfermline, Scotland, reported the disposal of more than 130,000 “new or slightly used” objects in a single week in just one location. This is the definition of E-Waste also known as electronic waste
“Electronic waste” is a large spectrum of any device that requires batteries or electricity to work such as batteries to washing machines. When these electronic wastes end up in landfills, they leach toxic chemicals eventually assimilating into the soil, air and groundwater. For example:
- Harmful for lungs
- Harmful for digestive systems
- Harmful for immune systems
- detrimental for long-term intellectual development
- Dangerous for the kidney
- Dangerous for the liver
- Dangerous for bone health into the soil
Amazon responded to the ITV investigation stating “they are working towards a goal of zero product disposal,” and that “no items are sent to landfill in the UK.” However, when Kwasi Kwarteng responded to the warehouse story with surprise implying that this was an unexpected disposal. The Amazon whistleblower behind the story claimed “there’s no rhyme or reason to what gets destroyed” suggesting that this disposal could be a result of a disorganized system.
Society is prone to contributing to the yearly waste in tonnes. Most wealthy countries have designed waste management systems that remove perceived worthless objects from our economy quickly and cheaply. However, for countries that do have an established waste management system, waste in any form can be very harmful especially for lower income families. What makes the Amazon case particularly alarming is the volumes of waste involved; several million tonnes a year! More importantly, this waste is not from Amazon’s own retail business, but rather the unwanted stock from some of the thousands of smaller organisations that use Amazon as a retail platform and distributor highlighting financial accounting is a systemic problem.
Zero Waste Scotland published its report which found that the total weight of resources used in 2017 by individual Scots (18.4 metric tonnes) was more than double predicted sustainable levels (8 tonnes). According to a former employee who spoke to ITV, the warehouse had a target of “generally destroying 130,000 items a week”. Many of these unsold products included top-of-the-line brands such as Dyson fans or hairdryers and Apple MacBooks and iPads. However, the Amazon warehouse exposé reinforces that accounting for waste should be put back on the legislative agenda for all countries. The practice of destroying unsold goods is rampant and commonly known across the consumer goods industry, particularly with luxury brands. Designer fashion labels such as Burberry have been previously called out for burning or throwing out stock as a strategy to retain consumer exclusivity.
At Green Schools Green Future, our plan when building the school is to incorporate green technology. Although paper is important, green technology can be used as a substitute to apply higher education such as blockchain and quantum in the curriculum. Our technology will be collected from donations instead of buying new devices to reduce e-waste. So when we are writing about this we can’t stop thinking how many of our students would of benefits from all this, when we are one step away from building a revolutionary school that will impact the many children in Africa and around the world. Donate today and help us reach our mission!
Wriiten by Sarah Syed
Images: Nerthuz/iStock, cherezoff/iStock