The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

What is product destruction?

Electronic waste

Exploring unsustainable production-consumption systems and appropriate policy responses

The practice of product destruction, whereby retailers or manufacturers dispose of viable consumer products such as unsold goods or customer returns, is an extreme expression of the linearity of our current production-consumption system. This qualitative exploratory study aims to uncover why companies engage in this highly unsustainable and resource-inefficient behaviour and to explore the potential policy interventions required to effectively address the issue. In-depth interviews were conducted with eleven experts from the textiles and electronics sectors to understand the driving forces behind this practice and provide a bottom-up perspective on appropriate policy interventions. The research identified two distinct sets of factors that contribute to product destruction. Upstream factors influence overall levels of customer returns and unsold stock and primarily include aspects of the retailer's business model, consumer expectations and product design. Downstream factors drive companies to dispose of these products rather than to pursue product life-extension strategies such as repair and reuse. Key downstream factors include economic incentives, profit-margin considerations, liability and brand integrity concerns, the availability of reuse networks and management issues. Consequently, to meaningfully address product destruction, a policy mix is required to simultaneously target upstream and downstream factors and change the behaviour of different actors, from manufacturers and retailers to consumers and reuse organisations.

Read the article here.