The Clothes You Mail Back Go Straight to Landfill

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Online clothes shopping has quite literally changed lives for the better. If you live far away from the kinds of stores you like, or if you don't have time to make it into a dressing room, you can simply have what you want shipped to your front door. Quick and easy returns have made online shopping that much more attractive — until you find out what happens to what you send back.

Most of us probably assume that any clothes we return in the mail have another life beyond when we decide they're not for us. Unfortunately, the two other sizes of that sweater you liked or those pants that were much cuter in the photo are likely bound for an incinerator rather than someone else's closet. CBC Radio's The Current reports on a new study on the practice, and the scope of it is staggering.

"The increase of the volume of returns has exploded by 95 percent over the last five years," journalist Adria Vasil told CBC. "And in Canada alone, we are returning $46 billion worth of goods every year."

Brands like Burberry and H&M have destroyed returned merchandise rather than see it go into secondhand shops or charities. It's also cheaper for clothing manufacturers to toss returns rather than inspect, clean and repackage them. If you're concerned about fast fashion and clothing landfill, this is some extra incentive to be really sure of sizes and measurements when you order online, to the extent that it's possible. If you're really shocked, though, it may be time to consider buying longer-lasting clothes secondhand.