Until now, the clear LDPE bags used to pack, transport and store garments before they are displayed in store – called polybags – have tended to end up in landfill or been incinerated. Now, the global sustainable fashion innovation platform, Fashion for Good, has established a pilot scheme designed to set up a closed-loop recycling system for this particular waste stream.
The Fashion for Good platform, which aims to identify and scale potential solutions to reduce the impact and use of plastic packaging in the industry, has now joined forces with First Mile, a UK recycler founded in 2004 by Bruce Bratley.
First Mile has no landfill policy and can recycle over 20 different types of materials, with anything unable to be recycled being turned into green energy. With an estimated 180 billion polybags produced globally each year, Bratley called it an area where recycling can make a ‘massive’ difference.
The pilot scheme, which is supported by Fashion for Good corporate partners adidas, Kering, PVH Corp. and Stella McCartney, will see First Mile collecting and recycling plastic polybags from retail stores located in central London.
While recycling plastic film generally poses a challenge due to the different colours, types and applications, fashion polybags are, for the most part, a pure, clean waste stream, that can relatively easily be recycled into high-quality clear film products.
According to Katrin Ley, managing director at Fashion for Good, the fashion industry needs to tackle polybag packaging waste and work together to make a closed-loop system a reality.
“This involves the sector committing to make current polybags more recyclable, supporting innovation in recycling, but crucially, focusing on systems for collection of polybags at all places that polybag waste is generated,” she said.
With this in mind, in collaboration with First Mile, the Fashion for Good pilot will test the ability to develop scalable closed-loop recycling infrastructure in one key city region. At the end of the three-month pilot, Fashion for Good will collate and analyse data on the viability of separate polybag collection for brands, and First Mile will report on the recycling outcomes.
Companies wishing to take part in the pilot should contact Fashion for Good or Jamie McCormack at First Mile.