France is rising up as a leader in changing the cruel fate of unsold products. So far she stands alone.

It is estimated that in France 650 million Euro’s worth of unsold non-food items are eliminated every year. This is by no means a localised issue, we are talking about a global challenge of massive proportions. Take that number and extrapolate it – first to the rest of Europe – and then to the rest of the world, and the results are beyond staggering. Just consider that in the US, over 11 million tons of recyclable clothing, shoes, and textiles make their way into landfills each year. When we frame this in the context of online product returns, in the US, we are talking about a $300 billion problem that is set to surpass $500 billion within the next three years. Within the European union, we are talking about a billion returned items that are destroyed annually, and this number is also only going to rise.

We should all be panicking in this dire situation in which everybody loses: online retailers, consumers like us, and the planet. In a time where global warming and the climate crisis is quite literally a hot topic, how can this be acceptable? We should all be challenging the status quo. And yet, very few leaders have stepped forward and demanded change.

Until now.

Circle back to France. Brought to you 230 years after the French Revolution. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the change is beginning here. The French senate has just approved “World First” legislation. This law holds a mirror up to retailers and consumers alike and demands accountability, responsibility and change. This legislation, to take full force by 2023, aims to prevent the destruction of unsold items. The law applies to unsold food, cosmetics, clothing, shoes, textiles, electronics or plastics, and other products. This means that alternative courses of actions will need to be found for unsold products such as online product returns. It will no longer be acceptable, to burn, bury, dump, destroy, trash, damage or render useless returns that can be otherwise REcycled, REsold, REpurposed, REfurbished or Regifted. This legislation is in keeping with circular economy, but more importantly, it is also just pure common sense. I mean, come on, there has to be a better way, right?

France has thrown a glove in the ring. Who will be next?

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