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This Startup Is Handling $260 Billion Worth of Holiday Returns

Photo: Andrew Francis Wallace/Getty Images

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Last holiday season, Americans returned over $260 billion worth of gifts. Many of these will be funneled to other resellers and wholesellers, or even sent to landfills, rather than going back on the shelves. According to the New York Times, the amassed items could fill 200,000 garbage trucks. Startup Optoro realized that handling this amount of returns for the long-term future was bad news for both companies and the environment. "The way we consume right now isn't sustainable," Optoro's chief executive Tobin Moore told the New York Times.

Optoro hopes to be the solution to that problem by working with companies to direct their returns to places other than a landfill. Companies have long taken the easy way out when it comes to returns, but with rates of returns up 66% in the past five years, retailers are now looking for other solutions.

Optoro offers "a software platform that tracks returns, quickly assesses which channel is the most effective for each returned item, and routes products to those channels," according to the NYT. This means that products get sent to the right retailers so that they eventually end up sold. "There always will be returns, but there will always be someone who wants them," Moore says. The startup is able to get a 50% to 70% return on items it handles, which can be anything from electronics and clothes to baby products. It has already raised $80 million in investments from Silicon Valley.