Recycled polyester and other fibres Overcoming challenges

Polyester is made from petroleum derived from crude oil, a finite non-renewable resource, and accounts for 19% of the material we use. Since the 1990s, demand for polyester has grown at a steady rate. Because polyester is an important material in our collections and we are committed to reducing our impact from fossil fuel extractions, we will increase our use of certified recycled sources over time.



Our 2019 performance

Increasing products containing recycled fibres

Over the past several years, we have steadily tested small collections that contain recycled polyester certified to either the Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) or the Global Recycled Standard (GRS). In 2019, C&A Europe sold 556,000 pieces with recycled polyester, 85% more than the number sourced in 2018. While the number of pieces is small in relation to the total number we sell, we are committed to further increasing our share of recycled polyester products by overcoming the following challenges:

  • Managing recycled polyester costs: Recycled polyester currently carries a 10 to 20% higher price than virgin polyester, depending on the volume purchased. We are working with Fashion for Good and the chemical recycling start-ups from their programmes to help scale technologies to bring costs down while increasing the availability of chemically recycled polyester.
  • Addressing contamination: Polyester source material can become contaminated with unknown substances. We continue looking for sources and solutions to help ensure recycled polyester is free of unwanted contaminants.

Continuing our journey with recycled fibres
We are working continually to increase use of recycled fibres in our products. This not only includes recycled polyester, but also nylon, cotton, and others. In 2019, for instance, C&A Europe sold 102,000 pieces containing recycled cotton, a 7% increase over 2018. In Mexico, C&A sold more than 14,600 pieces containing recycled cotton in Men’s, Ladies’, and Youth T-shirts.   

One way we are continuing to move forward is by participating in Fashion for Good’s chemical recycling working group which is identifying innovators for chemical recycling of post-consumer waste. In addition to preventing this waste from reaching landfill, incorporating post-consumer waste also increases the quality of the recycled materials.

Read more about circular fashion

Where next?

Increasing uptake of recycled polyester

We are working to increase the volume of recycled polyester in our clothing. This includes collaborating with Fashion for Good to identify innovators and technologies for
recycling polyester using chemical recycling methodologies. We have also been exploring the use of recycled cashmere, and anticipate launching recycled cashmere products later in 2020.