This exercise is greenwashing at its absolute worst – the truth about fashion’s recycling

7th August 2020 | Recycling

Globally, an estimated 92 million tonnes of textile waste is created each year and, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the equivalent of one rubbish truck full of clothes ends up going to landfill every second. By 2030, we are expected as a whole to be discarding more than 124 million tonnes of textiles a year. But increasingly, the clarion calls for change have resulted in some fairly seismic shifts and now more than ever, fashion and recycling are working in tandem. Or are they?

Irish apparel brand Primark announced last week that it will be rolling out in-store recycling schemes across all of its 190 UK stores.” All of the clothes you donate will be reused, recycled or repurposed, with nothing going to landfill. That means we’ll aim for as many donations as possible to be worn again. But where that’s not possible your pre-loved will be turned into insulation, mattress fillers or even toy stuffing so that nothing is wasted!” read a release from the brand.


Clothing collected from Primark’s scheme will be reused by its recycling partner Yellow Octopus, which, a Primark spokesperson told the Standard, “carries out a robust sorting process to ensure that as many clothes, shoes and bags as possible can be re-worn by others.” When approached for an interview, Yellow Octopus said that “as a part of commercial agreement with Primark we are not authorised to talk to the media.

The fast fashion chain isn’t along with its corporate enthusiasm for recycling schemes: fellow high street giants H&M and Zara have also implemented in-store recycling initiatives, which allow customers to drop off unwanted items in clothing “bins”. The idea is to boost textile collection and recycling rates and reduce waste to landfill. But if the same high street brands continue to drive high levels of consumption – some are launching up to 24 new clothing collections every year – can in-store recycling be deemed as anything more than a performative action?

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