According to a recent piece by Fast Company, returns of merchandise purchased online are yet another item to add to the list of things hastening humanity’s demise.
“A recent survey found that 40% of all online clothing purchases are returned,” which is staggering.
As the story notes, “many consumers actually buy clothes with the explicit goal of returning them.” The less insidious version of that practice is someone buying a number of sizes with the intention of keeping only one; the more insidious version is an influencer tucking tags for a post and then sending it all back. Fucking influencers.
Regardless of the scenario, taking a website up on a “Free Return” isn’t as innocuous as the pre-printed label at the bottom of the box might make it seem. For starters, “several industry analysts say that brands bear the cost of… wasted inventory.” And, much of that inventory “may ultimately end up in a landfill, unused.”
And all inventory, wasted or not, doesn’t travel without a carbon footprint. Though it’s “hard to pin down the environmental cost of returning clothes specifically,” the story noted that a “quarter of [transportation’s carbon] footprint comes from medium- and heavy-duty trucks doing last-mile deliveries, after goods have been transported by plane or [shipped] to a warehouse.” And the more returns there are, the more last-mile deliveries.
Fast Company’s solution? Of the simple-to-say, harder-to-follow variety: we need to better know our sizes (duh), more efficiently group our packages (seems like everyone wins), and simply buy less shit (again, duh).
You can read more about it at Fast Company.