The discount day Black Friday may benefit pockets, but the markdown mayhem has a troubling hidden impact on the environment.
Originating in the United States, Black Friday marks the final Friday of November, a day of slashed prices and America’s busiest shopping day of the year.
Celebrated the day after Thanksgiving, the day has been regarded as the beginning of the American Christmas shopping season for decades, with shops capitalising on the desire with discounts and deals.
Often the focus of news stories depicting record-breaking queues and fist-fights over the final cut price TV, the event has made its way across the Atlantic and grown in popularity and participation over the last decade.
Amazon is credited with the introduction of Black Friday to British shores in 2010, with the online retailer still the bargain King, even introducing their own homage, ‘Amazon Prime Day’, taking place for the last five years.
And while the 29th November is hailed by bargain hunters and Christmas shoppers, it is perhaps unsurprising that a day where excess and indulgence is celebrated wreaks havoc on the environment.
The annual sales event tempts shoppers to items they did not know they wanted, contributing to throwaway culture and a rise in landfilled waste.
A recent study by Green Alliance as part of a partnership with the Resource Recovery from Waste program, based at Leeds’s School of Civil Engineering, found that nearly all Black Friday purchases end up as waste.
With over half of shoppers purchasing electronic goods and almost a third buying clothes, it is estimated that up to 80% of items, and any plastic packaging, will end up either in landfill, incineration or, at best, low quality recycling, sometimes after a very short life.
Likewise, most of the resources the goods are made from will only be used once before being wasted.
Concerns also exist over air pollution, with the 82,000 diesel delivery trucks and vans that usually hit UK roads during the shopping frenzy only expected to grow as Covid-19 moves Black Friday online.
Diesel fuel, which is refined from crude oil, produces harmful emissions when it is burned, with diesel-fuelled vehicles a major source of damaging pollutants.
HGV insurer Staveley Head estimated that in 2017, £7 billion was spent in the UK over Black Friday and its online-focused cousin Cyber Monday, with an extra 225 million parcels delivered during the shopping delirium.
This resulted in 72,550 delivery vehicles on the road, with a lorry known to leave one of Amazon’s warehouses every one minute 33 seconds during especially busy periods.
This is of course discounting the extra trips shoppers themselves will make in personal vehicles to hit the high-street sales.
And it isn’t just fuel emissions that damage the environment when it comes to online deliveries, with the excess packaging needed for online orders often ending up rotting in landfill.
However, awareness around the environmental damage caused by Black Friday is mounting, and last year French clothing company Faguo formed a collective with 600 other French brands, refusing to take part in Black Friday to argue for reasoned and responsible consumption.
Greenpeace opted to disrupt the consumerism of Black Friday in 2018, by launching a ‘Buy Nothing, Make Something’ week in its place, encouraging practices of reusing and recycling.
Buy Nothing Day is also an international day of protest against consumerism held on Black Friday.
Founded by Canadian artist and activist, Ted Dave in 1992, events and creative actions now happen across 65 countries to raise awareness of excessive purchasing and the waste it contributes to.
This year, Swedish furniture giants IKEA have planned a greener Black Friday as part of its bid to become more sustainable, with the store allowing customers to sell back their used furniture for up to half of its original price.
Ultimately a Black Friday bargain can feel like a win, but is it really a good deal if you didn’t need it?