Target targets clothing waste with denim recycling test program
- Target is teaming up with I:Collect (I:CO) — which specializes in collecting, recycling and reusing clothing, shoes and textiles — on a two-week denim-exchange program, Sourcing Journal reported.
- The retailer will give its Pacific Northwest customers a 20% discount on new jeans when they exchange old denim clothing.
- I:CO expects the trial to keep 50,000 pounds of denim out of landfills. It’s a start, but a drop in the bucket compared to the 35.4 billion pounds of textile waste forecast for next year.
Consumers love their clothes. They also don’t keep them very long, as styles change with the seasons. And that leads to problems for the supply chain, including sustainability issues.
According to the Maryland-based not-for-profit Council for Textile Recycling, the United States generates about 25 billion pounds of textile waste per year — 82 pounds per resident. Of that 82 pounds, only 15% gets donated or recycled, meaning that 85%, or 21 billion pounds, goes into landfills. That's more than 5.2% of all municipal solid waste generated in the U.S. The group predicts the total to reach 35.4 billion pounds next year.
The Target project is in conjunction with I:Collect, a Germany-based company that collects recycled clothes and shoes in more than 60 countries.
I:CO will sort the goods into two piles: reuse, to be sold as second-hand apparel; and recycle, to become products for textiles or material for other industries such as furniture stuffing and carpet padding. Buttons and hardware go to the metal-working industry, and dust produced during recycling will be pressed into briquets for the cardboard industry. Even textiles unsuitable for any other purpose are used as material for energy production.
There are sustainability issues all along the supply chain, of course. Just the process of making clothing requires billions of gallons of water and thousands of chemicals, often in sweat shops with poor working conditions and forced labor. By recycling, some of those issues and costs can be reduced, along with saving landfill space.
Target’s two-week trial is a commendable start for the company, but others are further along in this area of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). A few examples:
- Levi’s also works with I:CO and will recycle clothing and shoes from any brand. Consumers receive a 20%-off voucher.
- H&M has a garment-collecting initiative that provides a coupon toward a purchase in return for unwanted garments of any brand.
- Madewell’s Denim Donation Program donates old jeans to Habitat for Humanity for housing insulation while giving returners $20 off a jeans purchase.
- The North Face encourages people to drop off unwanted clothing and footwear in return for a $10 coupon toward a $100 purchase.
For Target, it’s a start and a move in the right direction.
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