Double-11: The Waste Mourn under the Shopping Spree

Since 2009, China’s largest retail e-commerce company Alibaba has held grand promotional activities on 11th November every year. However, while the transaction volume is increasing and the activities are becoming grander, the problem of heavy waste caused by the Double-11 shopping festival is becoming more and more prominent.

Turnover on Double-11 increased year after year since 2009

Packaging Waste

The waste problem of Double-11 visually occurs due to product and logistics packagings. One item purchased online can produce up to 20 pieces of packaging garbage. According to the statistics, the amount of garbage leftover on Double-11 will amount to tens of billions in 2021.

One item purchased online can produce 20 pieces of packaging garbage.

—— A netizen

The packaging of express mail is made up of express waybill, woven bag, plastic bag, envelope, foam plastic, bubble film, cushion bubble bag, tape, and corrugated box. Therefore, most express packages cannot be degraded or recycled effectively. The data from the State Post Bureau shows that the current average daily business volume in China exceeds 240 million. There were up to 675 million shipments on the Double-11 in 2020. Under the industry’s standard of 0.2 kg for each shipment, it generated about 135,000 tons of solid waste in the previous Double-11 festival. The China Express Standardization Study by the China Institute of Metrology estimates that about 182,000 tons of cardboard are wasted each year due to excessive express packaging, which is equivalent to the removal of 1,547 hectares of forest every year.

Focusing on Hong Kong, Greenpeace’s past data showed that 23 million pieces of clothing are purchased online every year in Hong Kong. It is conservatively estimated that Hong Kong people consume 23 to 46 million unrecyclable plastic bags a year on online clothing purchases. Now there will be more.

China’s express delivery business volume in the past ten years (unit: 100 million pieces). Picture by THINKER
Courier boxes on conveyor belt. Photo by Getty Images

Excess Goods Waste

The shadow of waste is also reflected in the goods themselves, which is especially obvious in Hong Kong. The fast-developing online shopping boom, especially during the pandemic, has stimulated Hong Kong people’s desire to buy more goods. People have started to hoard shoes, bags, and accessories to an extent that their purchases exceed what they actually need.

Alibaba’s export volume also shows that Hong Kong is the top overseas region where most goods are exported to. Greenpeace’s past surveys have found that 80% of the clothes that participants buy online each year come from Taobao. One out of every four clothes is discarded after being worn less than twice. On average, 40% of people wore each piece of clothing no more than 5 times. Therefore, Hong Kong people discard at least 5.8 million pieces of clothing purchased online every year.

The used clothes recycling station in Hong Kong is considered an effective measure to deal with the waste. However, in fact, the recycling rate of old clothes in Hong Kong has been in the single digits for a long time. In 2017, more than 130,000 tons of textiles were eventually discarded to landfills. Due to the epidemic, many Southeast Asian countries banned the import of used clothes, resulting in Hong Kong’s old clothes being unable to be exported, and ultimately thrown into landfills.

Old clothes on the ground. Photo by Getty Images

Money Waste

Waste is also reflected in the amount of money paid by consumers. A netizen ‘Passerby’ conducted big data research for this purpose. Taking the price of 15,000 items in 2016 as a sample, it was found that more than 80% of the products were not sold at the lowest price on Double-11. In order to make more money, merchants resorted to quite complicated tricks. Various kinds of discounts are superimposed, which seems to be a bargain, but in fact, the goods are sold at a higher price. Regardless of whether they are aware of these problems, many consumers still enjoy shopping when Double-11 comes, and the transaction volume continues to increase each year. A survey of Hong Kong people’s online shopping behavior and mentality shows that although 78% of respondents have negative emotions due to waste, 55% said they will continue to shop on Taobao due to the low prices.

The discount formula of Double-11 on the Chinese Internet. Net Picture

Alibaba hosted Hong Kong’s first local Double-11 festival this year. Tmall Hong Kong and AlipayHK provided Hong Kong people with a wealth of goods and discounts. According to the situation of pre-sales, Hong Kong people are very interested in online shopping. However, in the current era of consumerism, we should pay much more attention to the series of excessive waste problems.

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