Primark is working to reduce and recycle waste
We’re committed to reducing fashion waste across all areas of our business. From the raw materials we source, to the cardboard boxes we transport our goods in and the unsold clothes in our stores, we’re stepping up and doing more to manage our waste and working to recycle as much as possible.
As a global retailer with hundreds of stores across Europe and the United States, we’re working to reduce the environmental impact of our stores as much as possible. This ranges from making them more energy efficient to managing the amount of waste they produce or recycle. To keep costs down and reduce our environmental impact, we’ve devised a new approach to getting products to stores. It’s designed to minimise packaging and waste at every stage of the process – from packing in factories through to sales in-store. For example, we ask factories to use just one plastic bag for a whole set of t-shirts, instead of having every product individually wrapped.
We’re committed to increasing the levels of recycling within our stores, particularly for cardboards, plastics and hangers.
Our iconic brown paper bags have been spotted on high streets since 2001 and is one of the best examples of reducing plastic use. Last Christmas we encouraged people reuse that bag for wrapping paper.
To reduce the number of trucks on the road and the amount of onsite waste collections at our stores, for many years we have used the same trucks that deliver our products to collect waste and take it back to our distribution centers.
As part of this process, we’ve established Resource Recovery Units in our UK and German depots. From here the cardboard, plastic and hangers that are collected at our UK and Northern European stores are reprocessed and sent for onward recycling or energy recovery. This ‘backhauling’ arrangement allows us to be actively involved in the recycling process and has significantly reduced the volume of third-party waste collections from our stores.
In store we’re seeking to reduce single use plastics. In late 2019, cardboard hangers and tags on soft accessories such as hats, scarves and gloves were trialed. After a successful roll-out, the hangers and tags for jewellery, hair products and belts were also changed from plastic to cardboard. Where possible, we are aiming to move to 100% recycled materials for all hangers. We will also aim to reuse or recycle as many remaining hangers as possible so that all hangers can be part of a circular system.
As one of our main sources of non-clothing waste, product packaging is one of our priority focus areas. We have established a Packaging Centre of Excellence to look closely at our packaging and explore ways to reduce it. Since 2019, we estimate to have removed over 600 million units of unnecessary single-use plastic components from our business.
Furthermore, our carton optimisation programme provides guidance to suppliers on how to optimise shipping packaging. The programme has so far saved 2.26 million square meters of corrugated material from being produced, shipped and recycled (4% reduction in overall volume). The programme has also reduced the cubic metre volume of cargo shipped by the equivalent of 1,400 standard high cube containers (2.5% reduction).
To support our more circular business model, we’re continuing to explore ways to reduce our use of single use plastics to move to more sustainable packaging materials.
We’re committed to transforming our business to become circular and more sustainable over the next 10 years. We know that a big part of this is ensuring clothes don’t end up as waste in the environment.
Our in-store recycling scheme, established in conjunction with recycling specialist Yellow Octopus, allows UK customers to use collection boxes, available in Primark’s 190 stores across the country, to drop off pre-loved clothing, textiles, footwear and bags from any brand. Each donated item is reused wherever possible, or recycled or repurposed as insulation, toy stuffing and mattress fillers, with nothing going to landfill. All profits from the scheme go to UNICEF, Primark’s global charity partner, to support its education programmes for vulnerable children around the world.
We also have our UK Take Back Textiles locations available in WRAP’s recycling locator tool. This makes it easier for our customers to donate in our stores.
We also want to find a good home for any clothes that we don’t sell. In Europe we’ve been donating our unsold clothing and buying samples to the charity Newlife since 2010 and in the US to Good Delivery since 2015. They collect, sort and recycle these clothes to raise funds, which are used to pay for equipment and specially trained nurses to support disabled and terminally ill children and their families.
We’re working towards a future where waste is a resource. In autumn 2020, we more than doubled our available items made using recycled materials and that’s just the beginning. We already offer a range of clothes made using recycled polyester, from essential items such as jackets, denim, night wear to swim wear and duvets. We’re also continuing to increase the amount of recycled fibres in our clothing through partnerships, like Recover, which uses recycled cotton waste.
We’ll also be talking to our customers about how to care for their clothes to keep them for longer. We want our customers wearing our clothes time and time again, which is why we’re focusing on creating clothes that are made to last by enhancing the durability of our clothing.