Black Friday’s dirty air quality secret

For many shops, one of the most significant shopping days of the year is here. But anti-pollution campaigners are lobbying for a more responsible approach to retail therapy. 

Sale signage

According to research from the University of Leeds, around 400,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide is released as a result of Black Friday purchases. The vast majority of which – 80% – will be discarded after just a couple of uses, or in some cases without ever being unwrapped or unboxed.

As a result, Keep Britain Tidy is hoping to discourage unnecessary and ill-thought-through purchases today, Friday 24th November, and on Cyber Monday (27th November). The campaign, which comes just ahead of a new national recycling and reuse push, hopes to capture the attention of 62% of adults, who say climate now sways their decision on whether to buy or not, as per a recent YouGov poll.

Shockingly, when looking at annual numbers for waste management at a local authority level, some 12.4million tonnes of unwanted, broken or outdated items were sent to incinerators over a 12 months period. Based on the Leeds research, Black Friday sales will add to this significantly.

This is particularly troublesome given we need toprioritise reducing both how much we bin, and our reliance on burning it. The process has an overall footprint far closer to coal and gas compared with solar and wind, and results in toxic pollutants other than carbon being released into the atmosphere, posing a threat to public health.

As we reported in our feature, The Disproportionate Impact of Air Pollution On Disadvantaged Communities, it’s often areas facing the greatest economic challenges that also have to contend with the fallout from facilities such as incinerators, landfill and power plants. As was the case with a trio of proposed energy recovery sites in Lancashire, which we covered earlier this year.

‘These shocking figures reveal the stark truth that if we are to bring our resource use and carbon emissions down to environmentally sustainable levels we need to understand that the things we buy last forever,’ said Allison Ogden-Newton, Keep Britain Tidy’s Chief Executive. ‘It’s alarming to think that around 80% of items bought on Black Friday are thrown away after a few uses, and some are binned without being used at all.’

Image: Justin Lim




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