This Black Friday, over half of shoppers will be buying electronic goods and nearly a third will be buying clothes.
New research shows that up to 80 per cent of these items – and any plastic packaging they are wrapped in – will end up either in landfill, incineration or, at best, low quality recycling, sometimes after a very short life.  Most of the resources they are made from will only get one life before being wasted forever.
A circular economic system, where long lasting repairable products are the norm and resources are maintained, reused or recycled back into high quality uses, is the way to avoid this unnecessary waste. It would also avoid the environmental damage this waste of resources causes, from initial raw material extraction to end of life problems like marine plastic pollution.
The current system in England is not set up to be circular, despite recent promises in the government’s resources and waste strategy to “preserve our stock of material resources by minimising waste, promoting resource efficiency and moving towards a circular economy”.  A circular system would involve better design, logistics and infrastructure for repair and reuse, and business models to help reduce unnecessary consumption.
The report finds that vast amounts of valuable resources are being lost to the economy. Around 80 per cent of household plastics and textiles are landfilled or incinerated and nearly all electronic waste goes to low quality recycling when it enters the waste management system.
Eliminating this waste requires a major shift to different infrastructure: up to 80 per cent less residual waste treatment infrastructure would be needed in a circular system for plastic, electronics and clothing. Instead, new business models, facilities and logistics would lower consumption and enable takeback, repair, remanufacture and reuse of products.
Libby Peake, senior policy adviser on resources at Green Alliance, said: “Black Fridays could look very different in the future. They wouldn’t need to be followed by buyers’ remorse shortly after as low quality products are ditched. The next government needs to kickstart a resource revolution and change the system, starting with the infrastructure that enables a circular economy to thrive. It’s not just good for the environment. People want high quality, long lasting, repairable goods.”
Prof Phil Purnell, convenor of the Resource Recovery from Waste programme, University of Leeds, said: “There’s plenty of support for the idea of a circular economy, including from government departments and big high street names such as Apple and IKEA. However, by failing to invest in the right infrastructure that supports reduced resource use, we are perpetuating the linear economy. We urgently need to change focus. A high value circular economy could generate billions of pounds for the economy, deliver half a million clean green jobs, and be a huge opportunity to reduce carbon emissions.”
This Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Fashion Revolution will tackle the environmental and social damage of hyper-discount culture with positive change.
The organization is calling on citizens to take a stand against mindless consumption, and retailers to abstain from discounts between Black Friday and Cyber Monday (29 November – 2 December 2019).
Black Friday represents a sore spot in an industry that runs on overproduction. When buying into the seemingly good deals, consumers send a message to brands that it’s okay for them to thoughtlessly produce, at the cost of people and the planet, because they will help retailers to get rid of their stockpiles as long as they are discounted steeply. Last year in the UK, this spending amounted to £1.49 billion over Black Friday Weekend.
Since its inception, Fashion Revolution has pushed the needle of the industry in a more sustainable, transparent direction – one where consumers have the power to make demands and brands know that they need to respond.
Orsola de Castro, Creative Director and founder of Fashion Revolution, said: “As consumers, we have so much power to change the world just by being careful in what we buy. Instead of participating in consumption for consumption’s sake, join our campaign to take a stand against over production and overconsumption.”
UK consumers are set to spend £7bn this Black Friday
In preparation for Black Friday, UK retailers have been stocking-up to sell a staggering £1.4bn of appliances and electronics. But with an estimated 1.4 million tonnes of e-waste landfilled in the UK every year, savvy-shoppers are being urged to think twice about the environmental impact of their seasonal spending sprees.
Recent research from online spare parts retailer, eSpares, found that 75% of Brits don’t attempt to fix appliances when they break down and instead opt to purchase expensive new models. 10% of the population also revealed that they didn’t like to keep unfashionable old appliances. Black Friday’s continued growth in the UK is therefore somewhat unsurprising.
However, as a result of the UK’s throwaway culture, millions of tonnes of unnecessary e-waste is created every year – 70% of which is reported as ‘unaccounted for’ and either landfilled, fly-tipped or shipped overseas. It’s clear that this wasteful behaviour is having a catastrophic impact on the environment.
eSpares’ Ad Casey said: “With the headlines dominated by ocean plastics, e-waste has seemingly slipped under the radar. But with every UK resident creating almost 15kg of e-waste per annum (a collective national weight 100 times heavier than the Eiffel Tower), it’s a terrifying issue that we can’t continue to ignore.”
The message from eSpares is clear. Think twice this Black Friday about whether or not you could fix your existing appliance before buying new – you may be surprised by just how quick and easy it can be. If you do need to buy a replacement, make sure you dispose of your old model correctly to minimise its environmental impact.
To inspire a national change towards disposing of e-waste, eSpares has launched #FixFirst – an initiative that provides free comprehensive information on how to fix appliances and help protect the environment. The company’s Advice Centre features more than 500 ‘how to’ videos, 700 fault fix articles and 9,000 appliance manuals, all of which help consumers to fix – not throw away.