The environmental cost of unwanted goods: Travelling from Earth to Mars 73 times a year

The downside of the boom in internet shopping is the environmental impact of customers returning unwanted goods – which generates 1.6bn kg of CO2 in the process.

Figures show that one of every four trucks on the road is carrying customer returns from internet shopping. For Europe and the USA combined, this totals 10.5bn miles – equating to 73 journeys between Earth and Mars.

Transport providers cover around 37bn miles on deliveries in Europe and the USA each year.

Revenues posted by Amazon and other online retailers have been rising for many years, and with a large number of high-street businesses forced to close as a result of restrictions imposed to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the sector has enjoyed another significant boost.

According to figures from The Office of National Statistics, UK online sales in August were 38.9 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels, recorded in February 2020.

Against this background, it is clear why the EU is imposing obligations on truck manufacturers to reduce CO2.

By 2025 all truck makers must cut the CO2 emissions of their heavy-duty commercial vehicles by 15 percent compared to the 2019 average. By 2030 the reduction needs to be 30 percent.

Tyres can play a significant role in achieving these ambitious targets, observes Continental. A key factor is rolling resistance. This has a major impact on fuel consumption – which, in turn, directly relates to a vehicle’s CO2 emissions.

So, choosing the right tyres has equal benefits for the environment and fleet operators. And those benefits are substantial.

However, it is not only fleet operators who can contribute in a big way to reducing CO2 emissions – and thus protecting the environment and fighting climate change; anyone buying a product on the internet can help, too.

All it needs is for consumers to act with more thought when shopping online and so avoid having to send back a large proportion of what arrives on their doorstep.   

About Continental

Continental develops pioneering technologies and services for sustainable and connected mobility of people and their goods.

Founded in 1871, the technology company offers safe, efficient, intelligent and affordable solutions for vehicles, machines, traffic and transportation. In 2019, Continental generated sales of €44.5 billion and currently employs more than 232,000 people in 59 countries and markets.

The Tyres business area has 24 production and development locations worldwide. Continental is one of the leading tyre manufacturers with more than 56,000 employees and posted sales of €11.7 billion in 2019 in this business area.

Continental ranks among the technology leaders in tyre production and offers a broad product range for passenger cars, commercial and special-purpose vehicles as well as two-wheelers.

Through continuous investment in research and development, Continental makes a major contribution to safe, cost-effective and ecologically efficient mobility.

The portfolio of the Tyres business area includes services for the tyre trade and fleet applications, as well as digital management systems for tyres.

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