Holiday shopping was expected to break records in 2021 — and now that all the gifts have been unwrapped, the returns are flooding in.

UPS estimates that it will process more than 60 million return packages by the end of January, 10% more than last year. But not all returned products will be restocked and resold. Instead, many will end up getting thrown away.

Returned inventory accounted for 5.8 billion pounds of landfill waste in 2020, according to reverse logistics company Optoro and Environmental Capital Group. This happens mainly because processing returns, especially e-commerce returns, is time-consuming and labor- and resource-intensive, Meagan Knowlton, Optoro’s director of sustainability, told Insider.

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