Your Stories Q&A: What does Amazon do with returns?

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WYSR-TV) — You ask, we answer!

Viewer David Ruckdeschel writes: What does Amazon do with all the returns from customers? Do they resell, donate, or just throw it out?

This must be a common curiosity because a few months back, Amazon published an article on its website addressing what it does with returns.

It states that returned items go to an Amazon Return Center, to be inspected to determine if they can be resold.

Depending on the condition of the returned item, there are several paths it can take. The vast majority of returns are resold as new or used, returned to selling partners, liquidated, or donated,” Amazon wrote on its website.

Items that can’t be re-listed as new, can end up on the virtual Amazon Warehouse.

“With all the benefits of Amazon delivery, customer service, and convenient returns, Amazon Warehouse offers customers great deals on quality used, pre-owned, or open box products,” Amazon wrote in an email to the Your Stories Team.

Our parent company, Nexstar, published an article on Amazon returns a few years back. The article stated, “Loads of returned merchandise end up finding a second life on the liquidation market, where they’re sold by the pallet at a deep discount.”

Amazon wrote the following on its website describing its Bulk Liquidation Store:

Lots are composed of either overstock (new and unopened) or damaged items (returned by customer or damaged during processing). Each lot is either entirely sourced from Amazon’s inventory or aggregated from one or more third-party sellers’ inventory.

Items that can’t be resold can end up being donated. Amazon didn’t provide how many items are actually donated but said millions of families are “impacted” through its donation process.

“When we’re unable to resell, return to selling partners, liquidate or donate products, we pursue recycling options where possible,” Amazon wrote on its website.

In the May 2022 Nexstar article, Amazon said if an item is unable to be resold, donated or recycled, the product goes through “energy recovery.” It called this the last resort.

What is energy recovery? It usually means they burn the stuff, CNBC explains. Energy recovery involves turning non-recyclables into heat or fuel by means of “combustion, gasification, pyrolization, anaerobic digestion and landfill gas recovery,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

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