Survey Shows How Consumers Waste Money on Unused Products

If spring cleaning teaches people anything, it’s that most consumers have a large amount of unnecessary things in their homes. It’s a testament to the power of marketing that people routinely buy items that they don’t need and it may happen more than people realize. A recent survey from ARM & HAMMER™ highlights some of the ways American consumers waste money and space by buying unnecessary products.

Not Using the Full Product

Much of the clutter in the average consumer’s home may come from owning extra bottles of cleaning and cosmetics products that weren’t completely used. According to the survey, which was conducted by The Harris Poll, on average, Americans use about half or less of the cosmetic (53 percent), cleaning (51 percent), and hair products (44 percent) they have at home.

In some ways, this statistic makes sense because consumers don’t want to run out of their favorite cosmetic, cleaning or hair products at an inconvenient time. But in trying to prevent a shampoo outage, consumers often do another wasteful thing that was noted by the study…

Buying Products Just to Buy Products

According to the survey, adults purchased an average of four items in the past year they have never used, including accessories, beauty products, and household items. This can happen for a lot of reasons. Using cleaning products as an example, consumers may purchase an extra bottle of cleaner to ensure they don’t run out, but forgot they did the same thing two weeks prior so now they have three bottles.

Buying products just to buy them isn’t something that only happens to overzealous stockpilers who don’t carry shopping lists. Besides accidentally over stocking their shelves with products, the ARM & HAMMER™ study noted another reason why Americans buy just to buy…

Consumerism Is Alive and Well in Americans

If it were only people buying extra quantities of items that will be used eventually, the extra items in the homes of most Americans wouldn’t be an issue. However, many people buy things they don’t need and will probably never use. According to the survey, one in four American adults (28 percent) have at least five items in their homes that they purchased but never used, with 15 percent having 10 or more unused items.

This isn’t so much a matter of greed as it is a matter of clever advertising and marketing practices. When I was a kid, I remember that my dad’s friend had a CD copy of the Natalie Cole album “Unforgettable…with Love” that was unopened and unused. I asked if I could have it, and he politely said no, but I thought it was odd he would buy something he hadn’t opened. As an adult, I look around my home to see unopened DVDs and games and now the situation makes sense. I’m sure my dad’s friend got suckered into one of the music clubs that were popular in the 90s and bought a lot of CDs at once since it was at a price he couldn’t pass up. For me, it’s the GameStop by my local Walmart that gets me to buy things I plan to use but never get the chance to.

This might be a slightly larger problem for me because of my age demographic considering something else the survey found…

Clutter is Common Among Millennials

The ARM & HAMMER™ survey found that Millennials are less likely to remove unnecessary items from their home. Only one in three (33 percent) millennials get rid of items they do not use in their home once a year, and only one in four (26 percent) adults usually stick to their New Year’s resolutions to clean annually.

This means that the extra items that people like me buy tend to stay around longer. This can be even more problematic when it includes food. Non perishable food doesn’t need to be refrigerated, but the don’t last forever. So a cluttered cabinet in a kitchen may be stuffed with food that’s past its expiration date.

Rather than waste these unused or unwanted products, it’s possible for manufacturers to repurposes some of the materials and plastics in old products. For examples, ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda has strategically partnered with TerraCycle, a world leader in the collection and repurposing of complex waste streams, to give ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda plastic pouches a second life through recycling.

They even set up a system where consumers can opt into gathering these packages in their communities, which TerraCycle will then collect, break down and repurpose into material used to make brand-new products. TerraCycle reuses, upcycles, and recycles waste instead of incinerating or landfilling it, which keeps resources cycling in our economy.

“At TerraCycle, we allow consumers to send us used packaging that we can turn into raw material for new products,” said Tom Szaky, TerraCycle Founder and CEO. “We are thrilled to enter into this partnership with ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda and the Church & Dwight family, who are working with us to make a sustainable future possible.”

Hopefully, this fun article has shown you some of the ways people (like me) waste products and space in their home. Keep an eye out for programs like the one with ARM & HAMMER™ that reduces waste by recycling or reusing products.

For more fun studies, check out the latest article in my Interesting Statistics series.  

Donald Postway

About Donald Postway

Donald Postway is a freelance communications specialist and business analyst. He has a master's degree in public administration and a bachelor's degree in communications, both from the University of North Florida. He has worked in a variety of industries, including local government, information technology, marketing, retail and more.

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