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In Fashion, What’s Outside Also Counts

New partnerships aim to tackle the fashion industry’s packaging footprint — with circular solutions for polybags and MATCHESFASHION’s new, recyclable boxes furthering the cause.

The fashion industry has woken up and is working to clean up its act (while it may not in fact be the second-most polluting industry, the amount of pollution and waste created throughout the world on its behalf has been well documented) — with news emerging almost weekly of brands reducing their water use and emissions, or more sustainable materials, or producing carbon-neutral runway shows, or coming together en masse to mitigate their impacts on oceans, climate and biodiversity.

Solutions such as RePack and Returnity have emerged that take care of the external packaging waste rampant in e-commerce, but there still remains the problem of what’s inside — those pesky plastic polybags, paper and other protective packaging that, while helping to keep apparel, footwear, etc safe and sound during transport — not to mention what brick-and-mortar retailers wrap items in after purchase, which still amounts to tons of additional material waste.

MATCHESFASHION rethinks the box

Image credit: MATCHESFASHION

More and more fashion and beauty brands are working to improve their packaging by eliminating plastic lamination from boxes, introducing compostable materials and re-using packaging. Now, UK-based luxury fashion retailer MATCHESFASHION has partnered with packaging producer Delta Global to overhaul its signature, marbled box and Eco Luxe box — both of which are traditionally secured with the use of magnets, which are unrecyclable. The new models, made from FSC-certified materials with a water-based finish, feature detachable magnets — after which the boxes are 100 percent recyclable and reusable.

“We worked closely with the MATCHESFASHION team to develop a removal technique using perforation points in the box,” said Robert Lockyer, CEO of Delta Global. “Once a customer removes the magnets, the box can then be flattened and recycled.”

MATCHESFASHION has also upgraded all of its smaller packaging components, such as notes and returns slips, to responsibly sourced and completely recyclable materials, as well.


Fashion for Good pilot creating circular solution for polybags

Image credit: Fashion for Good

Meanwhile, Fashion for Good is on a mission to produce a closed-loop solution for the ubiquitous polybags inherent in fashion retail and e-commerce. Through its Circular Polybag Pilot, launched in December, the collective aims to minimize the use and impacts of the roughly 180 billion virgin polybags produced to store, transport and protect garments, footwear and accessories each year.

In partnership with adidas, C&A, Kering, Otto Group and PVH Corp; along with recycling company First Mile and Cadel Deinking — an innovator from the Fashion for Good Accelerator Programme, the pilot is a first in the apparel industry to trial a truly circular solution for polybags. Using post-consumer polybag waste, Cadel Deinking’s technology — which deinks and removes adhesives from post-consumer polybag waste — facilitates the creation of high-quality, recycled-content polybags; a solution that could enable a truly closed-loop system.

Existing recycled polybags mostly use pre-consumer off-cuts and shrink wrap waste, usually from the polybag production line, and are generally not contaminated with inks or adhesives. But, considering that less than 15 percent of all polybags in circulation are currently collected for recycling, this is not a fully circular solution as sourcing of this high-quality waste remains a challenge.

For the pilot, the retail partners will supply several tonnes of post-consumer polybag waste. Cadel Deinking will deink and recycle the waste polybags into pellets; then its parent company, Gaviplas, will manufacture the pellets into new polybags that can re-enter the supply chain, creating a truly circular solution.

After the pilot concludes, Fashion for Good will explore means to further scale and mainstream the solution in the fashion industry. Results and learnings from this initial pilot will be disseminated in a comprehensive report and announced at the completion of this pilot. In the meantime, Fashion for Good and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition have produced a white paper detailing five steps that brands can take right now to reduce their impact.

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