Germans are ordering more and more on the Internet: On average 16 items of clothing and four electronic items per year. Young people in particular often order with the intention of returning the goods. What many people do not know is that many returns are destroyed. Greenpeace publishes the results of a representative survey one week before the bargain day “Black Friday” with record sales in the online trade.

For many Germans, shopping online has long since replaced going to the shops. For 2018, the German Retail Association (HDE) expects a turnover of 53.4 billion euros. In 2017, around 3.4 billion online orders were sent to German consumers. A size comparison shows that if you apply an average parcel height of 20 cm, the parcels stacked on top of each other reach from Earth to the Moon and back again. The daily volume of online shipments to German consumers would be equivalent to two and a half Mount Everests.

Booming German online trade

On behalf of Greenpeace, the Hamburg-based opinion research institute Nuggets interviewed 1000 women and men between the ages of 18 and 65 about online shopping and returns behaviour. Three out of four respondents regularly order textiles and shoes. This is followed by electronic articles and furniture. So-called “heavy shoppers” order more than ten clothing and footwear items a year and return more than half of them. More than 60 percent of those surveyed under the age of 30 already know when they order the articles that they only keep a part. At the same time, nine out of ten respondents cannot imagine that returns will also be destroyed.

Returns are simply “destroyed

But that’s exactly what happens. According to a study conducted by the EHI Retail Institute in autumn 2017, more than half of the online retailers surveyed stated that they recycle or dispose of part of their returns. Viewing and repackaging the goods is too labour-intensive. Research conducted by Wirtschaftswoche and ZDF in June 2018 shows that even market leader Amazon does not resell around 30 percent of its returns directly. Instead, “disposal teams” at German Amazon locations shred goods worth up to 23,000 euros every day. Viola Wohlgemuth, spokeswoman for Greenpeace, says: “Black Friday is a black day for the environment. Our consumption is destroying more and more resources and heating up the climate crisis. Consumers should be aware that every single package has an impact on the environment.” Greenpeace is calling on Environment Minister Svenja Schulze to pass a Resource Protection Act that would stop this destruction. The petition can be viewed online at


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Link: Greenpeace

Image: istock – simonkr