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 oﬃces by 2025. 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.
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 2019, we continued scaling up our eﬀorts in these areas.
Eliminating plastic shopping bags
in 2020, C&A Europe eliminated the single-use plastic shopping bags in all of its more than 1,400 stores across 18 countries in Europe. They also introduced a durable ‘bag-for-life’, made of 80% recycled PET which will withstand many shopping trips. When worn out, it can be returned to any C&A store and exchanged for a new one free of charge.
As an alternative to the 'bag for life', we will oﬀer customers the choice of 100% recycled paper bags. The paper bags are made of unbleached brown paper, saving water and energy that would otherwise be needed for the bleaching process. In addition to paper and rPET, C&A continues to oﬀer other alternatives, such as cotton bags.
C&A Brazil launched the Waste Game to engage store employees and make them more aware of C&A’s solid waste reduction initiatives. The game took place over 4 months in 2019 in all stores, and offered employees ways to earn points for activities such as participating in training, communicating solid waste practices to others, carrying out effective waste disposal procedures, and checking in-store communication materials and signage. The event led to improvements in awareness of solid waste practices.
Continuing our journey with recycled ﬁbres
We have continued to incorporate recycled ﬁbres in our collection. We have used recycled polyester in outerwear and blouses, recycled nylon in lingerie, and have continued using recycled cotton in denim and T-shirts. In 2019, C&A Europe sold more than 550,000 items containing recycled polyester, 85% more than the previous year, as well as 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.
Read more about our products made with recycled materials
In-store take-back and recycling facilities for customers
We expanded our in-store takeback programme to additional stores and collected 1422 metric tons of garments for donation or recycling in Europe, Brazil, and Mexico.
Recycling rates by retail market (2019)
Total waste produced by retail market (2019)
Despite an uptick in the volume of recycled waste in 2019 and expansion of our 'we take it back' programme, we did not make sufficient progress during the year towards our zero waste goal. We are exploring the reasons for this and evaluating appropriate steps as we develop our next sustainability strategy and goals.