Keeping Post-consumer Textile Waste Out of Landfills: Role of Fashion Brands
I’ve written before about the importance of keeping post-consumer textile waste out of landfills and the role that charity organizations, such as Goodwill, play in this effort. Of course, when you think about the larger picture, less consumption, wearing clothing longer, and repurposing textile waste through upcycling or downcycling also keep post-consumer textile waste out of landfills. Don’t get me wrong -- these strategies are very important and I could argue that they are even more important that the programs I’ll describe below! But fashion brands are playing a role through a variety of take back and recycling programs – and providing incentives to customers, such as vouchers for discounts for future purchases, for doing so. Are the motives of these fashion brands “pure” -- that is, only to keep post-consumer textile waste out of landfills? Of course not! That said, these programs are making a significant impact on this goals. Here are a few of these take back and recycling programs.
• American Eagle Outfitters: any customer who donates denim products of any brand at one of their stores in North America gets a 20% discount on a new pair of American Eagle jeans. The Switzerland-based company, I:CO, sorts the clothes for a variety of purposes: resale, shredding, recycled yarns, etc. Unwearable denim is shredded and turned into insulation.
• Columbia Sportswear ReThreads Program: any customer who brings dry and clean clothing, shoes, or other textiles (any brand) and drops them in any of the specially marked collection containers at seven Columbia Sportswear retail locations in Washington, Oregon and Minnesota receive a coupon for 10 percent or more of their next Columbia Sportswear purchase of $75 or more. I:CO also handles the reuse/recycle/upcycle sorting processes.
• H&M: any customer who donates a bag of clothing (of any brand and in any condition) at an H&M store receives a voucher worth 15% off his/her next purchase at H&M. I:CO also handles the reuse/recycle/upcycle sorting processes.
• Levi Strauss & Co: any customer who donates any clean, dry item of clothing or pair of shoes (of any brand) brought to a US Levi’s store gets a voucher for 20% off the purchase of any regular-priced in-store Levi’s item. As with American Eagle, Columbia Sportswear, and H&M, I:CO handles the reuse/recycle/upcycle sorting processes. Or you can download a free shipping label to Goodwill, fill a box with any brand of clean, dry clothing or shoes, affix the label and ship to Goodwill
• The North Face Clothes the Loop Program: any customer who donates used clothing and shoes (any brand and in any condition) at The North Face Retail and Outlet Stores (US, Canada, and Germany) receives a voucher for $10 off their next purchase of $100 or more at The North Face. Items are sent to a recycling center where they are sorted for reuse or recycled into raw materials. All proceeds go to The Conservation Alliance.
• UNIQLO: All Product Recycling Initiative. UNIQLO clothing is collected from customers at UNIQLO stores. The collected clothing is either distributed to those in need in over 50 countries or recycled for industrial re-use. UNIQLO currently partners with local agencies and non-profit organizations for distribution and recycling efforts.
Personally, I find it ironic (and based on the push back seen in the media, others find it ironic, as well) that fast fashion brands such as H&M and UNIQLO have implemented recycling programs since the growth in fast fashions is one of the reasons for the growth in post-consumer textile waste. But, life is full of irony! And tackling the post-consumer waste problem takes multiple strategies. So, if the other strategies are not available or don't make sense for you, please keep these tack back and recycling programs in mind as you work to keep post-consumer textile waste out of landfills. In addition, after you take your used clothing to the stores of one of these fashion brands and receive your discount voucher to purchase more new clothing -- please, don’t use it on something new! Wear what you have, repurpose what you no longer wear, or purchase from those who upcycle textile waste!