Black Friday 2022: How do sales affect the environment?

Key points
  • Australians are predicted to spend around $6.2 billion on Black Friday sales from November 24 to 28.
  • The annual sale, which began in the US, has become a major global shopping event.
  • As buyers close deals, advocates warn of a cost to the planet and workers in the fast fashion clothing industry.
Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday sales are two of them. but as buyers lash out at the deals, advocates warn that the sales are bad for both the environment and workers making consumer goods.
For many shoppers, the sales offer an opportunity to shop for gifts before the holiday sales, but critics say they encourage overconsumption.

Since savvy shoppers save money, how do the environment and workers pay?

What is Black Friday and how big is it in Australia?

The Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday sales kicked off in the US the day after Thanksgiving for four days.
Thanksgiving is always celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, so many Americans have a free day on the Friday before the weekend.
Retailers took advantage of this opportunity to turn this into a day of sales to increase profits in the pre-holiday period.
The name “Black Friday” was coined by Philadelphia police officers in the 1950s and 60s due to problems such as traffic jams, shoplifting, and even violence caused by large crowds of suburban people flooding the city to shop during the holidays. weekends.
It was later promoted by retailers in the 1980s on the pretext that it helped shift balance sheets from deficit (red) to profit (black).
The name Cyber ​​Monday was coined by retailers in the mid-200s and was intended to encourage shoppers to shop online.
Over time, this event spread throughout the world, becoming larger and larger every year.
Last year, Australians spent over $8 billion in the four days from Black Friday to Cyber ​​Monday.

This year Black Friday falls on November 25th and Cyber ​​Monday falls on November 28th.

The Australian Retailers Association and Roy Morgan predict that Australians will spend approximately $6.2 billion over the same period in 2022.

This is $200 million more than in 2021 at $1,076,389 per minute.

How are Black Friday sales hurting the environment?

Jeff Engel, director of the Boomerang Alliance, which works to reduce waste, says many items commonly bought during Black Friday sales end up in landfills along with the plastic they are normally packaged in.
“We find quite a few products – like fast fashion, toys that have very limited interest and life, other types of short-term consumer goods – unfortunately, when they end up in a landfill, it represents a huge waste of resources. and leads to pollution,” he said.

“The fact that they are produced at such a high rate means higher energy consumption and therefore a carbon footprint, and then of course extra packaging that is hardly recycled in Australia.”

Shop with Black Friday signs, save up to 50 percent

Black Friday has become the premier shopping event worldwide. Source: AARP

Mr Angel warns that those who try to do the right thing by putting unwanted items or packaging in trash cans may also be unknowingly contributing to more garbage and landfills.

He told SBS News that Australia does not have high recycling rates, especially after
“All these products come in excessive packaging, in the case of plastic packaging, only about 13 percent is recycled … we have a goal of 70 percent by 2025, and we are far from it, and if we do not recycle, we will be sent to landfill “, – he said.

“We don’t have a good recycling rate for packaging in Australia, so you can’t use that to alleviate some of the guilt of buying something and then disposing of it.”

What about the people who make these products?

Environmental concerns aren’t the only big factor when it comes to Black Friday sales.

Humanitarian groups warn that excessive consumption and production is also harmful to garment workers, many of whom do not receive a living wage.

Lyn Morgaine, CEO of anti-poverty charity Oxfam Australia, says the Black Friday cycle and rising demand could hurt garment workers.
“The vast majority of garment workers are not paid enough,” she said.
“There is no doubt that the fast fashion and commercial practices that accompany this cycle are not necessarily good for workers.”
Ms. Morgaine said the figures show revenues in the garment industry grew by 18 percent in two years, with a profit of $1 billion last year.
“The industry can afford to pay women properly,” she said.

“We need consumers to move beyond price as a single measure and understand that behind this price there can be many things that, if they knew them, would be inconvenient for them.”

How can Black Friday be improved?

Advocates say that not only are consumers shopping consciously, but governments and corporations need to improve business practices and recycling programs.
Anahita Sarkar is the CEO and co-founder of Hero Packaging, which sells sustainable and compostable packaging to e-commerce businesses.
She says that while many consumers and businesses are becoming more ethically conscious, shopping events like Black Friday remain harmful.
“Sale periods are the most important thing to do with sustainability, so businesses are just delivering goods in the best possible way, and consumers are also consuming because it’s a good sale,” she said.

“Now the problem is that most of the burden is on the consumer because many large businesses are in no way focused on making the selling period sustainable.”

Ms Sarkar says governments and big business need to adopt more sustainable practices.
“It’s a hierarchical structure, governments need to set policies for what businesses can and can’t do, and businesses also need to start taking responsibility… Use plastic,” she said.
“Single-use plastic is one of the most durable materials on this planet and is used for the shortest amount of time, especially during times like Black Friday, Cyber ​​Monday and then Christmas.”
In addition to using recyclable or compostable packaging, there are options for both large and small e-commerce businesses, Ms Sarkar said.
“There are a lot of quick fixes that companies can bring, like adding a plugin to your website to measure your carbon footprint,” she said.
“You can ask customers to add a dollar to offset carbon emissions, you can talk to places that measure your operations and tell you how to offset it, so that will ease a lot of that burden.”

The Australian Retailers Association has reached out for comment.