We’ve launched our first circular product collection based on our new Circular Product Standard.
What do we mean when we talk about “circularity” in fashion? Or when we say that we are working to become a more circular business?
For us right now, circularity means designing and creating our clothes with the future in mind so that they can be worn time and time again, and then given a new life into new clothes or materials once our customers are finished with them.
Circularity requires a mindset shift, from the way we design, create and re-use clothing, and also to what we do with them once they have reached the end of their life.
Introducing our first circular collection and Circular Product Standard
We’ve launched our first product range designed to be reloved or recycled using our new Circular Product Standard, which is based on principles established by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Our new Primark Circular Product Standard is a framework for how we intend to design products now and in the future. The standard will be used by our Product Teams and our suppliers to support our ambition that our clothes can be loved for longer and then recycled at the end of their life.
Our new Circular Product Standard was developed in consultation with circularity think tank Circle Economy and the non-profit sustainability educator Sustainable Fashion Academy. The new framework is built on the vision for a circular economy for fashion by our partner Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a global thought leader on the circular economy, and in consultation with climate action NGO WRAP. We also worked with Circle Economy and Sustainable Fashion Academy to develop a bespoke Circular by Design training programme which aims to educate our Product Teams and key suppliers in the theory and practice of a circular economy and how they can apply it in their day-to-day work.
The entire collection has been designed to be reloved or recycled, with a focus on three key parts:
1. More sustainably sourced materials ¹ : the clothes in the collection are made from at least 95% cotton from the Primark Sustainable Cotton Program, which trains cotton farmers to use less water, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, earning an increased profit as a result. The other 5% is made up of trims, embellishments or buttons, which, where possible, have been designed to be removable or recyclable.
2. Durability: everything has a life cycle—even clothes. But how long an item should last, and what Primark (and customers) can do to extend its life is something we're challenging ourselves to address. This new collection has been tested for increased durability in line with Primark’s new enhanced durability wash standard ². You can read more about our work on durability here.
3. Recyclability: every piece is designed to be recycled at the end of its life. This means, where possible, trims and buttons can be removed—so the items can be more easily reused or recycled, either into new fibers or new products. Customers can drop off their pre-loved clothes at their local textile donation point. The points are currently available in all Primark stores in the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Austria and Germany. Our ambition is to offer this facility in all our markets in time, but it is important we get this right before we introduce it into other countries.
There is also a growing network for recycling clothes and reselling clothes, made up of a variety of charities, companies, and local initiatives. Where the information is available, we have provided details of local recycling facilities and initiatives where our stores are based below. You can also contact your local authority to check what services they offer or visit Earth 911, which is a recycling database covering some areas in North America. You may also wish to donate used clothing to national resale stores, such as Goodwill and or Salvation Army.
Chicago Textile Recycling provide details on how to donate and recycled clothes locally. Read more here.
New York State
The New York City Department of Sanitation gives details on where you can donate or recycle unwanted textiles or clothes and learn about other reuse programs. Read more here.
The New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling provides an online tool to search for your local donation point.
Long Island residents can find their local donation or recycling point here.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection supports the Beyond the Bin online tool, which can be used to find out how and where to donate or recycle items that can’t go in your home recycling bin and you want to give a new home.
The City of Burlington is partnering with the Big Brother Big Sister Foundation of Massachusetts to provide free textile recycling pick up services to your home. More information on how to schedule a free home pickup can be found here.
Last year we piloted the Circular Product Standard framework, and this new collection is the result of the trial. We trained an initial group of designers, buyers and suppliers in circular design; based on how successful this was, we'll now be rolling out this training to 500 members of Primark’s product teams this year, along with additional selected suppliers.
In case your clothes need repairing or reworking at any point, we’re hosting repair workshops so you can learn to repair or upcycle them. Since these workshops aren't currently available everywhere, we’ve also created an online Customer Hub, featuring easy-to-follow videos covering everything from basic stitching to sewing on buttons and zippers.
We know circularity is a relatively new (and pretty technical) concept. So we’ve created a glossary of all the terms we use, to help you understand what we mean when we talk about this collection and our goals in this area.
We know that we can’t make all changes alone, so since 2018 we’ve been working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, benefitting from their network, knowledge and expertise on how to embed more circular practices within our business. This covers everything from the design and materials we use, through to the production and manufacturing of our clothing and products.
In July 2021, we extended our relationship with the Foundation by becoming a Network Partner and we now sit on their Fashion Advisory Board. Recognising that the best way to show progress in action is through product, we joined the Foundation’s Jeans Redesign Project last year. You can read more about our partnership here.
In June 2021 we launched our first Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Gold certified mom-fit denim jeans. The Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Product Standard is a set of globally recognised criteria for safe, more sustainable products with a lower impact on the planet. They were 100% organic cotton, produced using less water and energy, made to last and designed to be recycled.
We know this is only a small step in our journey to become a more circular business and we’ve more to do. It’s about taking real action to create positive change and while we’re not at the very beginning, we know it will take time. We also know that we cannot do it alone. But we’re ready and willing to go full circle on our mission to become more circular.
"At Circle Economy, we find it critically important to train designers, buyers and product developers on circular principles like designing for durability, recyclability and cyclability—so teams are empowered and equipped to make the right decisions in their daily roles. Working with Primark, we combined self-paced learning with interactive workshops to explore opportunities and identify what's possible within the circular textile ecosystem today."
Ola Bakowska, Strategist: Circle Textiles Program, Circle Economy
"I applaud Primark’s goal of scaling up this program and starting the mindshift toward circular product design—instead of waiting for the rules and definitions for what's circular to become more established. It’s a dynamic and evolving area."
Daniel Mensch, Director of Sustainability Education, Sustainable Fashion Academy
“Up to 80% of clothing’s impacts are determined at the design phase, with design choices influencing how the product is made, how long it is used for and what happens to it when it is disposed of. Designing for circularity is a key pillar of WRAP’s Textiles 2030 programme and will be essential to reducing the fashion industry’s impacts. We are pleased to see Primark taking practical steps to adopt and embed circular design principles within their business through the CPS and providing essential training to empower their product teams to make a difference.”
Catherine Salvidge, Strategic Technical Manager, WRAP
“To address our current take, make, waste, linear fashion industry, we must transition to a circular economy for fashion, where clothes are used more, made to be made again, and made from safe and recycled or renewable inputs. Through their participation in The Jeans Redesign, and development of their Circular Product Standard, Primark is taking a step forwards in its long-term circular economy journey. Now there is a clear pathway and a need to continue driving action, at pace and scale.”
Jules Lennon, Fashion Lead, Ellen MacArthur Foundation