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The Environmental Cost of A Free Returns Policy

As an online vendor & distributor of bathroom and kitchen fixtures, our goal is to create awareness and educate our customers of the environmental consequences that a retailer’s free returns policy leads to.

Most customers believe that once an item is returned, the item is restocked or reshelved and can be sold again. However, the truth is far from reality.

Returns that end up at facilities across the country arrive missing components, without the original packaging, and are in damaged or unsellable condition. This results in the items being disposed and/or recycled, which leads to continuous usage of landfills and storage of excess waste.

A free returns policy is a staple amongst any online business. While this is something that severely benefits the customer, it does come at the cost of our planet and more importantly, the environment.

Some quick facts about the environmental impact that a free returns policy has:

  • US returns alone create 5 billion pounds of landfill waste and 15 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually, equivalent to the amount of trash produced by 5 million people in a year, according to one estimate.
  • Transporting returns is estimated to produce 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. To put that in perspective, that’s about the equivalent of the carbon emissions from 3.2 million passenger vehicles. Or framed differently, emissions from the transport of retail returns represent about .2% of the U.S. total carbon emissions per year inclusive of energy, transportation, industry, and agriculture.

The current surge in e-commerce has led to an unprecedented demand for products sold online, which unless something is done, will continue to degrade the Earth’s environment.

Streamline must play its part in educating consumers of the consequences of a lax return policy.

The public must be aware that there are environmental consequences of sending back their returns to retailers. Returns are inevitable, we understand this.

However, Streamline would like to do its part in minimizing the amount of returns as well as reducing our company’s impact on the planet.

That is why we ask that you give us a chance to make things right prior to returning the item.

Let us help you with any question or issue, no matter how minor or complex. For every return that we can prevent, Streamline will donate to one of several environmental organizations.

Please reach out to us first via phone at 310-935-0028 Monday-Friday between 9 am -5 pm PST or via email at prior to returning the item so that we can help resolve any issues.

Help us help save the world and create a habitable environment for future generations to live and prosper in.

-The Streamline Team