The Impact Is Unbelievable: Hidden cameras and covert tracking devices reveal where Amazon is back

It’s safe to say that online shoppers love the promise of easy returns – and even better, for free. But consumers might be surprised to learn what can actually happen to all of those unwanted elements.

a the shop An investigation in Amazon Canada has found that the good is completely filtered by the truck load – and even destroyed or sent to a landfill. Experts say hundreds of thousands of revenue never end up again on the e-commerce giant’s resell site, as customers might think.

the shop Journalists posing as new potential customers went undercover to tour a Toronto e-waste recycling facility and destroy products with hidden cameras. During that meeting, a representative revealed that they had acquired “tons and tons of Amazon revenue,” and that their facilities were disintegrating each week and cutting off at least one tractor and trailer shipment from Amazon, and sometimes as many as three to five trucks.

“We’re not the only ones. We couldn’t handle Amazon completely. There’s no way. It’s like it – it’s like cockroaches, it breeds. It’s unbelievable,” said the operations manager.

CBC News conceals its identity because this company and others that help Amazon shed or resell their online revenues fear they will lose their contracts if they speak out.

“Some of them will go to the landfill,” said the director of operations. “Like, nothing goes 100 percent into recycling. It’s not possible.”

Watch | The CBC Marketplace has really figured out where Amazon is coming back:

Hidden cameras and covert GPS trackers reveal that some products sent to Amazon Canada are filtered by truck load and even destroyed or sent to a landfill. 11:27

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Environmental blogger Mira Jain was very disappointed to learn how some of Amazon’s proceeds are being sliced ​​up for recycling or sent to a landfill.

“Our recycling system, not just in Canada but around the world, is very, very disrupted,” said Jain.

“We can resell, we can return the gifts, we can return the house somehow or reuse it somehow. That would be the best way to recycle.”

Environmental blogger Mira Jain is very disappointed that some of Amazon’s revenue is being cut up for recycling or sent to the landfill. She is concerned about the environmental impact of online shopping. (Norm Arnold / CBC)

Jain loves the ease of shopping online but is concerned about Amazon’s carbon footprint. I started buying more on the platform after the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic, and she is not alone.

Ecommerce sales have doubled in Canada In recent months.

Secret GPS trackers and one backpack trip

Kevin Lyons, an assistant professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey who specializes in supply chain management and environmental policy, says 30 to 40 percent of all online purchases are returned back. This number drops to less than ten percent for merchandise purchased from brick and mortar stores.

To further investigate where all that online revenue ends up, the shop I bought a dozen products from the Amazon website – a faux leather backpack, overalls, a printer, a coffee maker, a small tent, toys, and a few other household items – and sent each item to Amazon as it was received but with a GPS tracker hidden inside. .

A Marketplace investigation of Amazon revenues found that some of them don’t return to the company’s virtual shelves at all. (Norm Arnold / CBC)

the shop Cooperated with Basel Action Network, A Seattle-based non-profit environmental organization that specializes in tracking waste and harmful products around the world. Trackers have become a guide to the underground world of e-commerce revenue.

Many returnees took an indirect route, often covering several hundreds – sometimes thousands – of kilometers to reach their final destination. the shop It brought back gaming blocks that had driven more than 950 kilometers before reaching a new client in Quebec. And a printer logged over 1,000 kilometers while circling southern Ontario.

Of the 12 returned items, Amazon appears to have only resold four of them to new customers at the time this story is published. After months of investigation, some of the proceeds were still in Amazon warehouses or en route to transit, while a few had traveled to some unexpected destinations, including the backpack that Amazon sent to the landfill.

Marketplace producers bought a backpack like the one on Amazon, and returned it in brand new condition with a tracker hidden inside. Within three weeks he ended up at a waste management facility in Etobicoke, Ont. Amazon says it arrived damaged. (CBC)

Backpack that the shop It’s back in brand new condition – but with a tracker inside – that can be tracked directly from an Amazon warehouse in Mississauga, Ontario, to a waste management facility in Toronto.

when the shop Taking Amazon shoppers to that facility, they were surprised by what they heard.

Majeda Al Timani often shopped on Amazon and was shocked to learn that the giant online retailer had thrown a backpack that was returned by Marketplace producers. (Norm Arnold / CBC)

“I was really shocked about it,” said Magda Al-Timani, who shopping a lot on Amazon. “I want that bag.”

She says Amazon’s decision to throw away the backpack it was returned to makes her reevaluate where she’s shopping. “I really have a lot of questions … for everyone in that company. It makes you rethink shopping on Amazon.”

the shop The producers returned the backpack in brand new condition and photographed it on camera. Amazon says the handbag has arrived damaged and cannot be resold.

But the problem is much bigger than one backpack.

Optoro, A tech company that specializes in simplifying reverse logistics – the process of sorting through retail revenue – estimates that US $ 400 billion in merchandise is returned to all retailers each year, generating Five billion pounds of waste Addressed to a landfill in the United States

Although the Retail Council of Canada does not have specific metrics for Canada, it notes that items sold online have higher returns than brick and mortar stores, and says these returns need to be carefully managed.

The market bought a truckload of Amazon revenue

Amazon sells the returned merchandise on its website via a platform called Amazon warehouse. Amazon returns are also sold by liquidators – large platforms or individual items can be purchased online by the public through virtual auctions.

the shop Journalists bought three skis with Amazon revenue at one of these auctions and then asked a veteran refiner to rate their value.

Roy Dernbeck, who has been in the refinery for 27 years and has several stores across the country, says he regularly sees large quantities of returned tractor trailers online.

Kevin Lyons is an Associate Professor at Rutgers University, New Jersey, specializing in supply chain management and environmental policy. He says 30 to 40 percent of all online purchases are returned back. (Stephen De Souza / CBC)

“They can’t keep up with the revenues, so they find fast ways to sell by skid, truckload, trailer load – whatever,” says Dirnbeck.

He says the pallets usually feature well-known products on the outside, and often have more “junk” on the inside.

watched Marketplace purchases three skis for Amazon revenue from an online refinery:

Between 30 and 40 percent of all online purchases are returned. You might not realize it, but the returns are already costing the environment, says one expert. 0:42

While Dirnbeck tries to sell or donate as many products as possible, he is concerned about how much it ends up in landfills.

Lyons, a professor at Rutgers University, thinks Amazon needs to be more transparent with its customers.

“So you don’t get a sale price or you don’t get a receipt for it,” he says. “But the land is really paying for it.” “If you think about the millions and sometimes billions of transactions that happen in this area, the effect is incredible.”

Roy Dirnbeck has been in the liquidation business for 27 years and has several stores across the country. Marketplace journalists helped sort through Amazon revenue purchased online from a third-party auction. He says the proceeds he left behind could not be sold and could end up in the trash (Anu Singh / CBC)

It’s a problem that plagues all e-commerce giants, not just Amazon.

Amazon says, however, it has written an operating guide about free returns Jason Goldberg Chief Trade Strategist at Publicis Groupe, a global marketing and advertising agency.

He says the tactic of luring customers to buy more than they need and return what they do not want “has had tragic repercussions on the environment and business.”

For all e-commerce retailers, it is “very difficult and costly to process product returns effectively”, says Goldberg. “You are lucky if half of all proceeds can still be sold as new, so a huge amount of merchandise has to be disposed of through some other means – liquidation, refurbishment, recycling, or landfill.”

Watch | Expert says “nothing” as free return:

In Amazon Canada’s business agreement with companies that sell on the site, third-party sellers are only given two options when customers return their products: either pay a fee to recharge them, or pay a fee to Amazon to choose how to dispose of the return by selling, recycling, donating, or destroying it.

Until recently, the option to return the item to a seller was three times more expensive than letting Amazon handle the return. Amazon says the shop As of September 1, these two drawings are now the same.

Alisa Bronikowski, Amazon’s senior public relations manager, said in a statement the shopCompany investigations are inconsistent with the company’s findings.

“The vast majority of the excess and discarded stock is resold to other customers or liquidators, returned to suppliers, or donated to charitable organizations, depending on the condition of the item,” Bronikowski said. “Sometimes we can’t resell, donate or recycle products – for safety or hygiene reasons, for example – but we work hard to reduce the number of times this happens to zero.”

the shop I ask Amazon what percentage of its revenue goes to landfill, recycling, or destruction. The company will not answer.

a TV investigation in France He revealed that hundreds of thousands of products – returns and excess inventories – are being thrown out by Amazon. As a result of popular protest, a New French waste control law Passed earlier this year will force all retailers including electronic giants like Amazon to recycle or donate all returned or unused merchandise.

Shortly after the show aired in 2019, Amazon also introduced a new program in the US and UK known as Fulfillment with Amazon donations, Which Amazon says will help sellers send returns directly to charities rather than discard them.

There is no such program in Canada.

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