The Impact of Amazon Warehouses on Communities

Often located in low-income communities of color, Amazon's warehouses contribute to public health impacts like poor air quality, noise pollution, and traffic congestion.

2 minute read

December 16, 2021, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Amazon Warehouse

Scott Lewis / Flickr

An investigation from Consumer Reports uncovered that most neighborhoods where Amazon builds its warehouses are home to more people of color and low-income households than other neighborhoods in the same areas—and that this choice has powerful consequences for local residents. According to an article by Kaveh Waddell, "Residents near the new warehouses say they face increased air pollution from trucks and vans, more dangerous streets for kids walking or biking, and other quality-of-life issues, such as clogged traffic and near-constant noise."

According to the investigation's findings, "the neighborhoods where Amazon opens warehouses often have a greater proportion of people of color than 70 percent or more of the surrounding metro area’s neighborhoods." Meanwhile, the company's retail stores, such as Whole Foods, are more often located in "wealthier, whiter neighborhoods."

The article details the health impacts of truck traffic and pollution and the disproportionate influence of Amazon in the growing delivery industry. In many cases, the company receives tax incentives to build warehouses, effectively receiving subsidies from the very communities their operations harm.

In response to concerns about impacts on neighborhoods and labor issues, some cities in Southern California's Inland Empire have passed moratoriums on new warehouses, and the state's attorney general sued to stop the construction of a (non-Amazon) warehouse project. And while Amazon has promised to electrify its delivery truck fleet, that change would not mitigate the effects of heavy trucks lumbering down residential streets and, in some cases, causing physical damage to adjacent homes. 

As Amazon's need for more warehouses continues to grow, the company is now buying real estate rather than leasing it to capture more of the value created by their properties.

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