Little Talk of Sustainability at Amazon's Big Hardware Event

  • 2019-09-26
  • Wired

This year’s Amazon event, however, took place against a backdrop of issues much more important than any fancy new smart speaker: Just last week, nearly 2,000 Amazon workers walked out and called for the company to reduce its carbon footprint and do more to combat the climate crisis. It was an unprecedented protest for Amazon employees, and just one day beforehand, CEO Jeff Bezos had usurped the demonstration with a climate-related statement of his own, committing Amazon to reaching the goals of the Paris climate accord 10 years early and becoming carbon neutral by 2040.

Yet at the big event Wednesday, Amazon made no mention of sustainability, recyclability, or its trade-in and recycling programs for consumer electronics. It was a noteworthy omission not only because of Amazon’s own complicated impact on the environment, but because other major hardware makers, like Apple and Samsung, have made a point in recent months to include recycling and “upcycling,” as well as trade-in programs for older devices, in their own product presentations.

While Amazon may not have mentioned them during its presentation Wednesday, the company does already have both a free recycling program and one for customers to trade in their old devices for store credit, which it then refurbishes and sells. The retail giant has also been working with manufacturers to cut down on packaging waste, among other initiatives. As Bezos noted, some of this information is included on Amazon’s sustainability website, though much of the page focuses on packaging.