Environment & Economy By Anu Singh, Tyana Grundig, David Common 39472 Views

Hidden cameras and secret trackers reveal where Amazon returns end up


It's safe to say that online shoppers like the promise of easy — and even better, free — returns. But it may surprise consumers to learn what can actually happen to all those unwanted items. 

A Marketplace investigation into Amazon Canada has found that perfectly good items are being liquidated by the truckload — and even destroyed or sent to landfill. Experts say hundreds of thousands of returns don't end up back on the e-commerce giant's website for resale, as customers might think.  

Marketplace journalists posing as potential new clients went undercover for a tour at a Toronto e-waste recycling and product destruction facility with hidden cameras. During that meeting, a representative revealed they get "tons and tons of Amazon returns," and that every week their facility breaks apart and shreds at least one tractor-trailer load of Amazon returns, sometimes even up to three to five truckloads.  

"We're not the only ones. We couldn't handle all of Amazon. There's no way. It is so — it's like cockroaches, it multiplies. It's incredible," said the operations manager.  

CBC News is concealing her identity because both this company and others that help Amazon dispose of or resell its online returns are afraid they'll lose their contracts if they speak publicly.  

"Some of it will go into landfill," said the operations manager. "Like, nothing 100 per cent goes into recycling. It just is not possible."

Eco-blogger Meera Jain was extremely disappointed to learn about how some Amazon returns are being shredded for recycling, or sent to landfill.  

"Our recycling system, not only in Canada but around the world, is extremely, extremely broken," Jain said.    

"We could resell, we could re-gift, we could re-home somehow or reuse it somehow. That would be way preferable to recycling." 


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