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Mountains of unsold consumer goods needlessly going to landfill amid cost-of-living crisis

3 min read

New data released by Good360 Australia shows the cost of living crisis and plunging retail sales could be creating Australia’s next environmental crisis. 

Good360, a charity that delivers unsold new consumer goods to a network of over 3,700 charities and disadvantaged schools, has revealed it has seen a 20% increase in the volume of unsold products received from businesses over the last 12 months. These goods, including clothes, homewares, appliances, toiletries and toys would have otherwise been wasted sitting in warehouses or sent to landfill if Good360 was unable to redistribute them. 

Good360 has also revealed demand for their services has increased as the cost of living crisis has worsened, with the charity now providing new unsold goods to 3,000 Australians in financial distress every day. 

The increase in demand for support and unsold goods donated has coincided with 12 interest rate rises from the Reserve Bank and a steep decline in retail spending. July’s retail data from the ABS shows discretionary spending on items such as clothes (down 7.2%) and household goods (down 8%) has decreased significantly since November 2022. 

Founder and Managing Director of Good360 Australia, Alison Covington shared that despite Good360 redistributing millions of dollars’ worth of items to vulnerable Australians, there could be many more unsold consumer goods soon headed for landfill, potentially creating an environmental crisis. 

“The cost of living crisis has created record demand for our services – we are supporting twice as many people today as we were during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Covington.  

She highlighted that the increased cost of living is not only creating higher demand for charities providing relief to people in economic distress, but as retail sales decline there are untold volumes of unsold products heading for waste. 

“We believe the volume of unsold goods, such as clothes and toys, heading for landfill could increase even further later this year as Australians continue to reign in their spending and retailers change their seasonal product lines,” added Covington. 

Citing a Deloitte Access Economics report they commissioned in 2022 they found $2.5 billion of unsold household goods are wasted by businesses every year. In the 18 months since they have seen retail sales plunge and donations to Good360 spike, suggesting there could be billions of dollars’ worth of valuable consumer goods heading to landfill instead of going to people in need. 

“It’s crucial governments step in and help redirect unsold goods to Australians doing it tough. Just $1 million in funding could divert $20 million worth of unsold consumer goods away from landfills and towards people in need.” 

According to Covington, helping redirect unsold goods to people in need is a non-inflationary way the government can help tackle the cost of living crisis. Ensuring millions of new clothes, appliances, toiletries and other products don’t end up in landfills also prevents unnecessary waste and could avoid creating a potential environmental crisis. 

Paul Zahra CEO of the Australian Retailers Association said while retailers were experiencing a drop in sales, many had strategies in place to divert unsold goods away from landfill, including working with charities like Good360. 

“After 12 interest rate rises we’re seeing consumers focusing on essentials, and spending less on discretionary goods. Changing consumer habits have also meant many retailers are left with excess stock on their shelves,” said Zahra. 

“The retail sector takes sustainability seriously and many of our members implement programs to divert their excess stock away from landfill.” 

“However while many retailers are playing their part by donating to Good360 for example, there’s more governments can do to help support the retail sector tackle the environmental issues that could be created if retailers are forced to send unsold stock to landfill,” said Zahra. 

Yolanda Saiz, CEO St Vincent de Paul Society NSW said the charity had seen a huge spike in demand due to the cost of living crisis. 

“We’re seeing a huge demand for assistance at the moment due to the high cost of living, so being able to not only provide direct financial assistance to people ourselves but also partner with organisations like Good360 is so important,” said Saiz. 

Good360’s inaugural EveryOne Day fundraising event in October will see retailers and businesses, around Australia aim to raise up to $5 million in a bid to transfer $100 million worth of unsold goods to Australians in need over the next 12 months. 

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Menchie Khairuddin is a writer Deputy Content Manager at Akolade and content producer for Third Sector News. She is passionate about social affairs specifically in mixed, multicultural heritage and not-for-profit organisations.


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