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Singles' Day

One in every four fashion items Hongkongers buy online not worn more than two times before being thrown away, poll shows

Greenpeace East Asia urges consumers consider if they really need item before they purchase as Singles’ Day shopping event approaches

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 November, 2017, 9:24am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 November, 2017, 11:42am

Out of every four fashion items that shopping-crazed Hongkongers buy online – mostly at rock bottom prices – at least one will be worn no more than two times before being thrown out, a survey by an environmental group revealed ahead of Singles’ Day this Saturday.

The most cited reasons were poor quality, wrong fit and the product looking different from what they expected, according to Greenpeace East Asia.

The group warned that such impulsive habits were leading to the disposal of 5.8 million garments every year, a large number of them destined for the tip.

“Because prices are so low, people don’t think carefully and just buy. They keep getting duped, but because the items are so cheap, they don’t mind and keep buying and buying, fuelling the vicious circle,” Greenpeace campaigner Walton Li said. “Sure, the cost of regret is low, but the environment is footing the bill, and these costs are high.”

With the Singles’ Day online shopping bonanza just around the corner, the group is making a plea to Hongkongers to think more carefully about whether they need so many clothes.

Every November 11, merchants on Taobao and Tmall.com, both owned by the Alibaba Group, offer huge discounts to spur sales across the mainland.

Alibaba also owns the South China Morning Post.

Shue Yan University was commissioned to do the poll late last month, surveying 1,015 people on the street between the ages of 18 and 45 who shopped on Taobao – the city’s most used e-commerce platform – at least twice in the past six months.

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Online shopping transcends seasons in Hong Kong. According to the results of the Greenpeace poll, 40 per cent of respondents spent at least one hour a day shopping online. The average shopper also forked out an average of HK$6,360 a year on various items.

Clothes – particularly tops, bottoms, shoes and dresses – were the top items bought, with the average respondent buying at least 18 items a year.

Multiplied by the 1.23 million active online shoppers recorded by the census survey, that would amount to about 23 million fashion itemsevery year.

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Li said this created huge volumes of waste and put additional pressure on the city’s overflowing landfills, not to mention the water and emissions that went into manufacturing these products as well as the plastic involved in packaging them.

“Online shopping has already become part of Hongkongers’ lives. Acting on cheap prices, they buy clothes at the spur of the moment – but the polluting effects last a lifetime,” he said.

Sales transacted across all Alibaba e-commerce platforms on Singles’ Day are expected to surge 26 per cent this year, according to global consulting firm Oliver Wyman, fuelled by demand for imported products and the participation of overseas audiences.