In a recent survey conducted by Censuswide for the charity Barnardo’s, it said that Britons will buy £700m worth of new clothing to be worn over their vacation trips and never again.

In the States, on average an item will be worn 7-10 times before it is tossed out.

The decision how many times to wear an item of clothing is on us, the consumers. However, the fast fashion industry, has made it really easy for us to embrace this disposable culture. Consider the fact that some clothing is so accessible that it is almost cheaper to buy something new than to wash, dry-clean or even mend an item that needs a bit of refurbishing after a few wears.

In 2017, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation published a report that said that every second a garbage truck full of textiles is being trashed.

Rewire recently published an article citing researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, who have called fast fashion an environmental and human health crisis. In order to keep up with the demand for a fast, regular and cheap turnover of new fashion, the limitations of the industry are stretched to the boundaries of safe, ethical, sustainable and healthy business practices. To keep the prices down, cheaper labor, cheaper materials and cheaper facilities are required. At the same time, in places where it may be harder to measure (and restrict) an over-use of natural resources and an over-extension of the supply chain are rampant. These are high prices that we all pay for this fast turnover.

Now just imagine the implications of fast fashion and online product returns. 30% of all online purchases returned. The reasons for the return may vary from poor fit to change of heart. Regardless of the “why,” in the States, we are talking about billions of dollars worth of new items making their way back to the online store.

But guess what, only about a half will make it back to the shelf. The rest will be burnt, buried or sold for next to nothing. Consider the carbon footprint of the manufacturing of the item, the forward logistics to the consumer, and the reverse logistics once the consumer decides that they don’t want to keep that item. Sustainable, no? Circular, of course not. So the planet loses twice. Once on the manufacturing, and once on the return.

For the most, we as consumers have a choice. We can be more conscious about what we buy, sizing, the quality of the product and the nature of the retailer. However, if an item is purchased and it doesn’t fit or doesn’t feel right, we should not be guilted into keeping it. That would be wasteful.

So how can we be sustainable and allow for online product returns to be managed in a smart and responsible way? Some of the more common methods are to donate, recycle or regift.

Fast fashion, it seems, isn’t just accelerating new cycles of clothes, it also seems to be accelerating short cycles of usage, instant gratification and a straight path to the trash.

Want to hear OtailO’s plan for online product returns? Let’s talk.