Do Holiday Returns End Up In A Landfill? Study Says Yes

(CBS Local) — With the holidays over and everyone’s gifts unwrapped, there’s a good chance many Americans are now headed back to the stores to make some returns. According to a new study, many of those unwanted gifts won’t be going back on the store shelf; they’re more likely to end up in a landfill.

“Reverse logistics” company Optoro estimates that five billion pounds of returned items end up in the trash annually. Nearly $380 billion worth of goods are sent back to the stores each year and a quarter of those unwanted presents are reportedly returned during the holiday season.

Optoro adds that only about half of the items taken back to the seller are actually sold again by retailers. “They simply accept it as a price of doing business,” Jonathan Byrnes of MIT’s Center for Transportation & Logistics told CNN Money.

So where do the rest of your holiday returns go?

Many items, most of which were either opened or have damaged packages, will be sent back to the manufacturer. Some of the items are reportedly sent to other retailers and sold at lower prices. Since retailers are responsible for the cost of repackaging an open item before reselling it, many find it more cost-effective to simply throw them in the garbage.

“It’s good that consumers are taking more risks and buying goods, but it’s not the easiest problem for retailers to solve,” Optoro CEO Tobin Moore said.

The sting of returned items will likely pain stores a little less this year as U.S. retailers posted a record $598 billion is sales. The spike in holiday shopping was the biggest jump since 2011.

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