This Friday 24 November marks the start of Black Friday, a day of purchasing madness that drives wild-eyed crowds to the sales to battle it out over the best possible bargains.
Characterised by a total lack of regard for buying logic or the benefits of a sustainable lifestyle, the capitalist celebration is the best example of the kind of mass consumption that is tearing our planet apart.
While the scientific community consistently warns us of the large-scale deterioration of the natural world and its resources, marketing campaigns everywhere are encouraging us to shell out on products we don't actually need.
So without further ado, here are five eye-opening facts to sum up the sheer absurdity that is Black Friday.
Customers only benefit from an average of 2 % savings during Black Friday
Fast fashion and high tech are the principle spending domains during Black Friday. They also happen to be two enormous sources of waste and pollution with enormous societal and environmental consequences.
But, as a 2015 study revealed, Black Friday promotions will only save customers an overall average of around 2%, meaning minimal savings for us and maximum profit for big businesses. Last year in the United States, a whopping total of $655.8 billion was spent on Black Friday.
80% of clothes bought in the western world end up in the bin
People are buying around 60% more clothes than they did just fifteen years ago and are holding on to each piece for around half the time, according to a Greenpeace survey from 2016. In other words, we're consuming two times more and also wasting two times more compared to the start of the century.
Today, the textile industry is the second most pollutant in the world right behind the oil industry. According to a Guardian study from the start of the year, 80% of clothes bought in the western world wind up getting chucked in the bin.
E-waste has increased by 63% in Asia in five years
Our consumption of electronic goods has reached its highest point in history and, with new products coming out all the time, we're getting rid of them quicker than ever before. But these items don't just disappear when they hit the bin; in fact, they often wind up in poorer countries around Africa and Asia.
According to the UN, the quantity of 'e-waste' generated in Asia has increased by 63% in just five years. An extraordinary volume that most countries don't have the infrastructure nor the means to recycle. Worse still, treatment plants mostly operate with a complete lack of regard to the environment or the health of their workers.
Recycling cannot compete with mass-consumption
Recycling is far from the panacea it is made out to be and the problem of mass-consumption cannot be solved by recycling alone. No country on Earth is at the point, technologically or commercially, where it is able to handle the volume of clothes and electronics thrown away every year in its recycling plants.
That's why we tend to sweep all our problems under the rug by sending off our waste to other countries. Resulting in the disastrous consequences explained above.
Our material possessions weigh an average of 60,000 times more than us
Just one more figure for the road: one recent study calculated that the world's material possessions would weigh the equivalent of more than 60,000 times each living person on the planet. That means enough possessions to fill every square metre on Earth with 50 kilos of objects.
So the next time you're reaching into your pocket, it might be worth thinking: "Do I really need this?" You might just end up saving the planet – not to mention a few pennies – in the process.