Waste Pursuing zero waste to landfill

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. Less than 1% of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing, representing a loss of more than $100 billion worth of materials each year [SOURCE: Ellen MacArthur Foundation].


In 2017, C&A committed to sending zero waste to landfill from C&A stores, distribution centres and head offices by 2025. Progress against these goals will be measured in 2018 for the first time.

Our approach to reducing waste is grounded in the idea that we must shift our industry from a model of ‘take, make, use and dispose’ to one where every resource is used and then repurposed, again and again. Our vision is to help enable a restorative circular economy, where nothing is wasted in the creation or disposal of our clothing. Products are designed and developed with their next use in mind, using pure materials and safe chemicals. Social justice, including safeguarding health and safety and fair labour, water stewardship and the use of renewable energy, are also an integral part of the circular model.

Read more about our approach to circular fashion

The transition to a fully circular apparel industry will take many years. To truly create the pathway to a new normal, we must reimagine much of what we do. However, there are various steps we can take today to start reducing our impact straight away, such as in-store waste management initiatives and the use of recycled materials in our clothing. In 2017, we focused on scaling up our efforts in these areas.



Our 2017 performance

Starting our journey with recycled fibres

In 2017, C&A Europe started taking meaningful steps to increase use of recycled fibres in our collection. We used recycled polyester in outerwear and blouses, recycled nylon in lingerie and have continued using recycled cotton in denim.

Read more about our products made with recycled materials

In-store take-back and recycling facilities for customers

Following its successful launch in the Netherlands, we rolled out our in-store take-back programme to four additional retail markets – Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and a pilot in Brazil – with a view to expanding the programme further by 2020.

In Brazil, we sell cell phones in addition to clothing, and have shared responsibility for taking back and disposing of cell phones and batteries appropriately. We work with GM&Clog, who collect the waste and make sure it gets to the correct destination. We have an e-learning programme for all store staff to help raise awareness of this issue as well. In 2017, a total of 40,736 items were collected in our stores.

Read more about our in-store take-back programme

Using fewer plastic bags

As many as one trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year [SOURCE: US Environmental Protection Agency], representing a major source of pollution and threat to sea life. As part of a voluntary commitment with the German retail association HDE, C&A introduced a fee of 20 cents for plastic bags in Germany in April 2016. We were amazed at the results: plastic bag use dropped by 67% in a year.

Now, we also charge for plastic bags in Austria and paper bags in France, and have switched from plastic to paper (or a combination) in a number of our markets including the Netherlands, Hungary and Italy.

Reducing waste from store refurbishments

In 2017, we piloted an initiative to assess how we can reuse and recycle materials during the refurbishment of a store. Two stores – Tournai in Belgium and Houten in the Netherlands – took part in the pilot, which separated waste streams into wood, metals, electronics, cables and other construction waste.

Each stream was treated differently to achieve the highest reuse and recycling rate possible:

  • Mixed wood was separated, shredded into finer pieces and used in the manufacturing of pressed wood plates and other wood-based products.
  • Metals, electronics and cables were shredded and mechanically sorted into different materials, to be shipped to smelters and used in production processes.
  • Construction and demolition waste went through an additional separation, manually and mechanically, to join the other waste streams.

The pilot was a success, and we are currently reviewing the best way to use the learnings to help us reuse and recycle more materials in future C&A store refurbishments.

Reducing waste in C&A stores and distribution centres around the world

Recycling (tons)





Cardboard box and paper recycling
and/or donations





Hanger and/or other plastic recycling





Used clothing/fabric and/or uniform
donations to charity or recycling





Electronics recycling1





Other materials recycling
(aluminium, lamps, cosmetics, lab
waste, store window displays)





1Legislation in Brazil requires electronic manufacturers and retailers that sell electronic devices to offer a proper disposal procedure for this type of waste.

Total waste produced by region

Total waste (tons)





Hazardous materials 










Where next?

More Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM products in-store

In Europe, we will deliver more than two million Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM pieces over the next two seasons, alongside campaigns showcasing the products. In Brazil and Mexico, we will develop a Cradle-to-Cradle roadmap to build on the success of the launch.

Increasing uptake of recycled polyester through product innovation

In 2016, we recognised the need to increase our use of certified recycled polyester, and in 2017, we developed new products with polyester certified to the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) or the Recycled Content Standard (RCS). These were launched in stores in early 2018 in both outerwear and Ladies’ blouses.

Rolling out in-store take-back

In 2018, we will continue to expand the programme to new geographies globally, as well as expand our current pilot in Brazil from 31 stores in 2017 to 80 stores.