DO you order clothes or shoes online or from catalogues?

What do you do if something ordered doesn’t fit or isn’t what you thought it was? You send it back, right? After all, you haven’t worn it, so it can be repackaged and sold again, can’t it?

Apparently not. Much of what is returned can travel around the world several times before eventually ending up in landfill – that is a shocking waste of valuable resources.

It seems that companies do not have the technology in place to deal with returns. There is no machine that can do up the buttons or zips or tie the shoe laces properly again so they can be resold.

This system is flawed, both from an economic and an environmental perspective.

It is estimated that more than two million tonnes of waste is generated through returns each year, contributing 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the Earth's atmosphere.

A 2016 report by Greenpeace concluded that 'Clothing production doubled from 2000 to 2014… The average person buys 60 per cent more items of clothing every year'.

"And, with a booming world population estimated to reach 9 billion people by 2050, solutions that ensure our returns can be reused or recycled are going to be vital.”

Clothes and shoes already go through so many environmentally harmful processes, from making the fabric (often out of fossil fuels) to dyeing, which uses toxic chemicals.

Mass manufacturing in factories pumps carbon emissions into the air.

Then there’s the transportation and packaging, to which green solutions haven’t yet been applied.

Returns just multiply the ecological costs of online shopping, even before they end up in landfills, as explained above.

Clearly, we need to ask our retailers to devise a better system for dealing more effectively with returns.

We also need to be more aware of the impact of our decisions.

We can take more care when ordering online to reduce the likelihood of returning items; or go back to shopping in person; and reduce the amount of new clothes we buy.

Consider buying from charity shops: they have a greater range of styles, colours and sizes than many high street shops, so it is easy to find there just what you want.

Only the best donations make it on to the shop floor, as charities donate items to those in need and recycle worn fabrics.

Clothes swaps with family and friends can be fun, too.