Innovation That Matters

Retailers recycle customers' used clothes


Thanks to the rise of “fast fashion,” discarded clothing finds its way into landfills at an alarming rate, including one million tonnes of the stuff each year in the UK alone, according to the British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. While there are many charitable organizations that collect used clothes for resale and reuse, two global retail chains have launched initiatives of their own to give the clothes they’ve sold another life. Japan’s Uniqlo chain, owned by Fast Retailing, began recycling its fleece jackets back in 2001, and has since expanded the program to include all Uniqlo garments. Collections are held during the months of March and September each year at all Uniqlo’s Japanese stores. Items that are still wearable are distributed to developing countries through the Japan Relief Clothing Center and other like organizations. Items that are no longer usable as clothing are either recycled into fiber and used to make thermal insulation, work gloves and cotton rags, or they are converted into power-generating fuel. As of March of last year, almost 800,000 items had been recycled, roughly 90 percent of them for use as clothing. UK-based chain Marks & Spencer, meanwhile, launched an effort with Oxfam just last month to encourage consumers to recycle their worn clothes. Consumers who donate clothes—which must include at least one Marks & Spencer item—will receive a voucher worth GBP 5, valid for one month, to use with their next purchase of GBP 35 or more on clothing, homeware or beauty products at M&S. Donations can be made at any of Oxfam’s 790 stores across the UK and Ireland, where they will be sold to raise funds for Oxfam’s work in global relief. (From February 20–24th, M&S and Oxfam will also host a ‘Fashion Amnesty’ on the lawns of the Natural History Museum in London, which brings to mind IKEA’s furniture swap in Amsterdam.) Whether it’s printer cartridges, beverage containers, cell phones, eyeglasses, plastic bags or clothing, recycling the products you’ve sold benefits not just the environment but also pretty much everyone involved. Spotted by: RK




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