Have you ever wondered what happened to the sweater you bought that turned out to be too small, or the kitchen gadget you were gifted but didn’t have use for? Few of us think about where products go after we return them, but, collectively, our unwanted goods have a massive business and environmental impact.
Processing the average return costs companies 59% of the original sales price of the item. Every year, U.S. companies spend an estimated $50 billion on product returns. At the same time, those returned goods are responsible for massive landfill waste and 27 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
Returns are an unavoidable part of the modern consumer economy, especially thanks to the growth of online shopping. Based on my experience as the founder of a product-return logistics company and a professor of supply chain management at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, I believe the returns process as it exists today is unnecessarily wasteful. Of the 3.5 billion returned products shipped between retailers, customers, and landfills each year, only an estimated 20% are actually beyond repair. Yet, nearly 10 billion pounds of returned items end up as landfill waste anyway.
Read the full article online at Fast Company.
This article was produced by Footnote in partnership with Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business.