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Report: auction industry is preventing millions of tonnes of carbon emissions

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Old-growth European beech forest in Biogradska Gora National Park, Montenegro. Photo by Snežana Trifunović, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

LONDON – New research from Auction Technology Group plc (LON:ATG), the operator of the world’s leading marketplaces for curated online auctions, has found that one million tonnes of carbon emissions were saved in 2021 by the sale of just 15 item types at auctions run on its marketplaces globally. This is the equivalent of 50 million mature trees growing for one year and only accounts for 6% of the 9.5 million items sold across ATG’s platforms in the period.¹

ATG’s 2022 Carbon Impact Report highlights the key role that the auction industry has to play in reducing the world’s carbon emissions by facilitating the market for second-hand goods. By purchasing the following goods second-hand on ATG’s global marketplaces for Arts & Antiques, Industrial & Commercial goods and surplus consumer stock, customers avoided:

  • Large excavators – 231,768 tonnes of carbon emissions
  • Gemstone rings –143,628 tonnes of carbon emissions
  • Pick-up trucks – 119,760 tonnes of carbon emissions
  • Mechanical wristwatches – 59,463 tonnes of carbon emissions

Auctions allow individuals to reduce their personal emissions by purchasing used items rather than buying new. They could save over half a tonne (560kg) of carbon emissions by buying one second-hand sofa, 460kg by buying a second-hand dining table, or 800kg by purchasing a mechanical wristwatch second-hand rather than new. The impact of these savings is particularly striking when compared with individuals’ annual carbon footprint, with the average person in the UK emitting 13 tonnes per year, and 16 tonnes per year in the US.²

Businesses, too, can reduce their carbon emissions by buying second-hand. For example, by purchasing a used cherry picker instead of a new one, a business would save up to 20 tonnes of carbon emissions, while the purchase of a used excavator would save up to 36 tonnes.

John-Paul Savant, CEO of ATG, commented: 

“Today’s report has shown just the tip of the iceberg of the incredible impact of the auction industry on avoiding carbon emissions. We are extremely proud to play such a critical role in accelerating the growth of the circular economy, restoring the health of our planet in order to protect future generations. We are passionate about spreading the word about the sustainable impact of auctions and we are excited to show how every business and consumer can make a real change by not buying new. It is up to all of us to do what we can to tackle the urgent climate change crisis – reducing our environmental impact as much as we can.”

The figures used in the report were prepared for ATG by leading carbon research consultants Small World Consulting, based on data from process-based life cycle analysis (PBLCA) and environmental input-output analysis. A full methodology can be viewed in the report.

The top 15 item types which collectively saved one million tonnes of carbon through their sale on ATG’s platforms include:

  • Large excavators – 231,768
  • Large cars – 195,272
  • Gemstone rings – 143,628
  • Pickup trucks – 119,760
  • Bucket trucks – 105,480
  • CNC machines – 85,365
  • Mechanical wristwatches – 59,463
  • Tractors – 58,334
  • Small cars – 42,289
  • Sofas – 7,213
  • Dining tables – 6,336
  • Chests of drawers – 2,994
  • Wardrobes – 2,968
  • Armchairs – 2,695
  • Mobile phones – 906

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[1] Climate Neutral Group, https://www.climateneutralgroup.com/en/news/what-exactly-is-1-tonne-of-co2/

[2] Small World Consulting