The apparel industry creates significant waste along its value chain. The majority of this occurs when we make clothes and when we throw them away. Around 85% of clothes are currently sent to landfill or incineration [SOURCE: I:CO], which leads to a large leakage of value.
Our approach to reducing waste is grounded in the idea that we must shift our industry from a model of ‘make, use and dispose’ to one where every resource is used and then repurposed, again and again. Our GOLD level Cradle-to-Cradle Certified™ T-shift is a great example of this theory brought to life. In a truly circular economy, there is no such thing as waste.
The transition to a fully circular apparel industry will take many years. We know we have a long way to go. However, there are various steps we can take today to start reducing our impact right away. We believe in-store waste management initiatives and the use of recycled materials in our clothing will contribute significantly. Work has begun and the next stage will be to scale up our efforts.
In-store Take-back and recycling facilities for customers
Since 2014, we have been working with I:CO – an international solutions provider for apparel reuse and recycling – to create in-store Take-back schemes for our customers. In our Dutch stores, C&A customers are encouraged to bring in old clothes and ‘give them a second life’. I:CO collects and categorises the clothes according to their quality, and then either arranges for them to be resold as second-hand items, or recycled into new ones. In 2016, we collected 44 tonnes of clothing in our Dutch stores, an increase from 42 tonnes in 2015.
In addition to garment recycling, we recycle electronic equipment and reuse hangers. In Brazil, C&A sells mobile phones and other electrical items, and as a result we offer responsible disposal methods for our customers. In 2016 3.3 tonnes of electronics were collected in our Brazilian stores. When it comes to hangers, our objective is to reuse all hangers; damaged ones are recycled. A total of 3,400 tonnes of hangers were recycled in Europe and Brazil in 2016.
Reducing the use of plastic bags
Of course, the first step to reducing the impact of waste is to reduce how much we create in the first place. That’s why we’re running a programme to help our customers use fewer plastic bags when they buy from us. Since introducing a small charge for plastic bags in our stores in Germany, we have reduced our consumption by 67% since April 2106. In addition, we have switched from plastic to paper (or a combination) in a number of our markets like the Netherlands, France, Hungary, and Italy.
|Cardboard box and paper recycling|
|Hanger and/or other plastic recycling||3,276||106|
|Used clothing/fabric and/or uniform|
donations to charity or recycling
|Other materials recycling|
(aluminium, lamps, cosmetics, lab
waste, store window displays)
Recycling data is currently not available for our stores in Mexico and China. Legislation in Brazil requires electronic manufacturers and retailers that sell electronic devices to offer a proper disposal procedure for this type of waste. Already before this law came into force, C&A Brazil offered its customers a disposal alternative.
|Total waste (tonnes)||Europe||Brazil||China|
Waste data is currently not available for our stores in Mexico.