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The hidden cost of Black Friday sales is hurting the planet

Author: Martin Done

As the world prepares for Black Friday, one of the biggest events in the retail calendar, retailers are becoming increasingly concerned about the hidden cost of the annual sales and how to handle the millions of items bought online and then returned.

Fashion returns are a particular concern with up to half of clothing bought online being sent back. The biggest day for returns is on the Monday after the Black Friday sale.

But the problem is not just with retailers struggling with returns, the sales bonanza has negative environmental impacts due to the increase in carbon emissions and masses of waste.

Black Friday started in the US as the day after Thanksgiving when retailers started to offer significant discount on their products as a way to sell any excess stock in the run up to Christmas and the holiday period.

It was an event that was quickly picked up by stores and retailers around the world with discounts on offer for at least a long weekend with some putting discounts in place for the whole of November.

So, what is the environmental impact of Black Friday?

As we shopping shifts increasingly online, accelerated through lockdown, the number of deliveries to homes has also increased. According to Transport and Environment, During this year’s Black Friday week, 1.2 million tons of CO2 will be released in the air by trucks transporting packages to warehouses and stores around Europe. That’s almost 600,000 tons extra, or almost double (94%) than in an average week.

But it’s not just an increase in deliveries – the whole life cycle of the product needs to be taken into consideration, including manufacturing, packaging, shipping, waste and end use.

Waste is also a big issue as the discounts tempt consumers to buy things that they don’t really need. In the US, waste increases by 25% between Black Friday and New Year, due to packaging or items being thrown away after just a few uses or, in some cases, not at all.

Also, when unwanted items are returned to retailers, they can often end up in landfill as retailers are trying to clear stock to make way for Christmas items.

At STOCS, we work with retailers and brands to provide a better global solution for their returns and overstocks to avoid them being sent to landfill.

As a secondary market, data-driven start-up we hope to be doing our bit to support retailers to reduce the environmental impact of Black Friday and the busy period up to New Year.

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