Call for Amazon to help people facing poverty in north-east Wales following unsold goods disposal controversy
Liam Randall, local democracy reporter
A councillor in the north-east of Wales has called on Amazon to step in and help people facing poverty, after the multinational technology company opened a distribution warehouse in the county.
It follows an increase in the number of people encountering financial hardship in the county due to the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Officials from Flintshire Council said food and income poverty were two of the biggest pressures facing residents, along with loneliness and isolation.
The issue was highlighted during a meeting last week, where one councillor suggested the local authority should contact Amazon to request assistance for those in need.
Cllr Marion Bateman’s comments were made in light of recent controversy surrounding how the online shopping giant disposes of unsold stock.
The company was strongly criticised after ITV reported that it was destroying millions of items from one of its 24 UK warehouses in Dunfermline every year by sending them to recycling centres.
Speaking at the remote meeting on Thursday, Cllr Bateman said: “Please forgive me for this question because, as usual, it’s a bit off the wall but it was on the news last night about Amazon and their returned goods.
“I was just wondering, because we have a distribution warehouse on Deeside, whether it’s worth the conversation with them to see if there’s anything they can do for people in poverty.”
Amazon opened a new 9,000 square-metre local delivery centre in Flintshire in September last year, but has stressed that no returned items are held there.
The creation of the facility on the Airfields site in Sealand resulted in the creation of around 50 new jobs, while 300 drivers were hired by independent companies to collect and deliver parcels to customers in the area.
During 2020, the online retailer’s UK sales rose by 51 per cent to £19.4bn as more people switched to internet shopping because of lockdown measures closing high street stores.
An Amazon spokesperson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the company would be contacting the council to discuss the suggestion and also drew attention to its existing efforts to support the community.
They said: “We invest in our local communities through good jobs, sustainability initiatives, and philanthropic partnerships.
“Community donations are one of a number of ways in which Amazon is supporting communities across the UK.
“Amazon in Deeside is contributing in a variety of ways, including by supporting the Flintshire food bank, North Wales Superkids and Age Connects North East Wales with monetary contributions.
“The delivery station also delivered a variety of products to Homeless Aid UK and has donated pet food to local animal shelters.”
Addressing how it gets rid of unsold goods, Amazon said it donates millions of products to charities across the country every year.
The spokesperson added: “It is better for the environment, our customers, our communities, and for our business when we can resell or donate these products.
“As will be the case with most retailers, we have more work to do, but we are working towards a goal of zero product disposal.”