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“Free” Holiday Returns

Every year, hundreds of thousands of gifts are returned after the holiday season comes to an end—this year is no different. An estimated $70.5 billion dollars worth of products are expected to be returned to companies, which is 73% higher than the previously predicted five-year average: this is most likely because of a massive increase in online shopping due to the coronavirus. After the 2019 holiday season, a record 30% of online purchases were returned, and an 8% return rate for brick-and-mortar stores. However, with the pandemic continuing to confine Americans to their homes, these numbers are expected to dramatically increase in the coming weeks. 

88% of consumers assume that their returned items are resold to another consumer by the original company. Contrarily, most returns are either sent to landfills or liquidators to resell. This issue is the result of many companies offering free shipping for returns as well as an extended return window. After a return is made, the company must carefully inspect the item to determine whether or not the item can be resold; however, the vast majority of these returned items are deemed unable to be resold, despite the fact that only 20% of returned items are defective. By the end of 2019, returns made in the U.S. alone generated 5 billion pounds of waste in landfills, as well as contributed 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Though the numbers are bleak, there are many alternative ways to get rid of unwanted items without harming the environment. One alternative is resale: by reselling unwanted items on popular sites such as Poshmark, Mercari, and many other apps, people can make a profit while giving away unwanted items, all while minimizing environmental damage. Other alternatives include regifting and donating unwanted items to stores such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army. The next time you return an item, take a moment to consider the potential environmental impact of your decision.

Featured image courtesy of Picryl.

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