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The Future of Fast Fashion: Retail Shops go Recyclable

By Ella Hendrix

The world seems to be finally waking up to the impending climate crisis. It has been a long time coming, but we are finally seeing increasing awareness in individuals, businesses and governments taking environmental issues more seriously and making changes to lessen their impact on the environment.

Fast fashion is one of the greatest offenders, but recently, retailers have been changing their practices and working to offer more sustainable options. Reducing consumerism and trying to buy items from thrift stores or second-hand is the best option, but if you are going to spring for a new item, here’s how you can make sure you’re making a sustainable choice.

Recycling Packaging

Almost everything that is sold and used in retail arrives at the store in a cardboard box. Disposing of cardboard is already notoriously difficult, and some people think that recycling this cardboard could be even more difficult.

Retail stores have started using a bailing machine for cardboard, which makes it not only easier to collect, but also be stored, transported and recycled. If every shop on the high street recycled their packaging such as cardboard, this would make a big difference.

Going Paperless

Just as more and more offices are attempting to reduce the amount of paper that they use everyday, stores can be doing the same. More and more retail stores are now offering to email receipts to their customers instead of printing them out. This reduces the amount of paper that is being used at the checkout – receipts which, frankly, are more often than not just thrown away.

Product Recycling

One of the most important things that these stores can do is facilitate the recycling of products by consumers. Recycling products such as clothing, make-up and packaging will not only allow the store to help customers reduce their carbon footprint - it can also help customers find somewhere to put those old clothes that aren’t worn anymore.

The average American throws away 80 lbs of used clothing a year, and an estimated $170 million worth of clothing goes in landfill every year globally. By being able to recycle this clothing we will not only enable good clothing to be re-used, but we can also enable fabrics to be re-made into something else and massively reduce the amount of clothing thrown into landfills every year.

Which Retail Stores Recycle?

More stores have started offering recycling services. If you’re curious where to shop if you’re interested in recycling, try one of these programs:

  • H&M has been offering garment recycling since 2013. This is a worldwide policy where they try to re-use, donate or recycle any clothing that is donated in exchange for a $5 voucher.
  • Zara started collecting old clothing in their shops in 2016 across Europe and have almost finished installing recycling collection bins in all of their shops in Chine. The #joinlife program donates clothes that are good enough, to people in need, turns them into other products or recycles them, as well as collaborating on research projects into the recycling of fabrics.
  • UK’s Marks and Spencer have their famous ‘shwopping’ program, which donates old clothing to Oxfam in exchange for points or a $5 voucher. M&S believe that they have had over 20 million pieces of clothing or soft furnishings returned, which are either given as clothing or recycled into something else – such as mattresses, insulation or dishcloths.
  • Lush are well known for their sustainable packaging and environmentally conscious products. They also offer a free facemask when you return five clean black pots.

It’s a good sign that we are beginning to see more and more retail stores looking to reduce the world’s carbon footprint. There is, however, still a long way to go, and by supporting them we can try to push them onwards towards having more of an impact as well as inspiring other businesses to do the same.

To learn more about fast fashion and sustainable apparel, check out our article on sustainable style here