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Where are your free returned clothes now?

Posted by Vino Kilo on

Chasing back the evolution of online shopping, time flies back to no more than 8 years ago, when there was a study supported the fact that offering free online returns would drive sales. Not long later, such a "trend" grows in each and every online business, regardless of the company scale. Along with the trend, we always know some shopaholic lost the plot with it, they can buy the same shirt in different sizes, different colors, pick 1 out of the 10 delivered items, send back the remaining 9. Did you really think all these items are well cleaned and repacked for sale again? Or, worse, did you ever think of what happened to these products? Here comes the fact:
Most of the returned products are now in the landfills or burnt, yes, they were just tried on once perhaps.
Garment waste has been clogging the landfills with returned items accounting a significant amount. And now, let's take some time to dig deeper and see how we come to this situation - an enormous amount of garment waste.

Why are the returned products sent to landfills or became ash in the air?

Depending on brand positioning, there can be 2 main reasons.
For fast-fashion like H&M, it is all about cost. H&M admitted that they burnt around 15 tonnes returned clothes while even more than that are disposed. Free returns are undoubtedly creating a bloody huge loss to these companies, but considering the great return of brand image and increase of re-purchase, it's hard for them to give up the policy. So, the "best" that they can do to diminish the cost will be direct disposal. Every step of the logistics in putting these items out for sale again costs something. Eventually, whenever the companies cannot get a place to quickly and economically handle them, they would choose to treat them like trash. 
For luxury brands like Burberry, which also admitted burning their clothes, it is about their branding strategies. Saying that they don't want to see their clothes being sold at an extremely cheap price and being worn by the people that are "out of their target"... They decide to burn them. This is perhaps the worst result when the two values, sustainability and profit, stand against each other.

Your recycled clothes are not recycled

Fast-fashion has been the main character in the fashion scandal - garment waste. Uncountable harm was created to their brand image, and in reaction to this, they try to build up a recycling system for consumers. Huge recycled bins can now be found in H&M stores telling you to bring your old clothes to them. While they cannot give up on their production method (saying that this is their core business strategy), this is perhaps the best "compensation" that they can provide. 
Unfortunately, technological barriers laid in between the process, different fabrics and materials make the cycle hard to go in a wise way. So, still, they actually dispose or burn the majority of the clothes at the end, running further away from sustainability. 

What can be the way to go against this "garment waste tragedy"?

Think twice before you buy and buy vintage.  This is a way to reduce the waste from the beginning for sure. Brands produce according to the demand, only if they get a clear picture of a decline of demand, they will produce less. Same applies to the other side, if there is a greater demand for vintage clothing, more people will be willing to involve in the sustainability league.
Believe or not, extending the life of an item by an extra 9 months can reduce the environmental impact by 20-30%. Sounds vague? What if you know that providing 1 tonne of clothing for direct re-use or re-sell can create 11 tonnes less carbon dioxide (Siegle, 2017)? Definitely saving the world with small effort. 
How our models bring new life to the vintage Burberry items

So, will you stay vintage with us? 
Let's spread the vintage love out. XOXO

Siegle, L. (2017, July 29). Fashion must fight the scourge of dumped clothing clogging landfills. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2017/jul/29/fashion-must-fight-scourge-dumped-clothing-landfill

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