What do we mean when we talk about “circularity” in fashion? Or when we say that we are working to become a fully circular business?
Well, for starters, circularity has nothing to do with the cut of your clothes. It’s a concept used to explain a more sustainable way of doing business where waste is minimised and resources are maximised. So a more circular product would be used for longer and designed to be recycled rather than thrown away.
What Circularity Means for Primark
At Primark it means using more sustainable materials in our clothes, such as cotton sourced from our Primark Sustainable Cotton Programme or recycled polyester, as well as minimising, and ultimately working to remove waste at the start and end of every garment’s life. Right now, many of the clothes we sell are made from virgin raw materials and at the end of their life, not enough of them are re-used or recycled.
We’re aiming to become a more circular fashion business where waste is reduced or eliminated by being recycled or upcycled into new products. This means we need to use fewer new resources to produce our clothes at the start, while also thinking about the end at the very beginning. Complete circularity will be a big change and challenge, but it’s not an entirely new concept to us.
Our Progress So Far
Since 2015 we’ve been working to reduce the environmental impact of our products as signatories of the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP), led by sustainability charity WRAP. And in 2020 we were one of the first to commit to Textiles 2030, WRAP’s plan to speed up the UK fashion industry’s move to circularity whilst reducing carbon emissions and water use.
Right now, 25% of the clothes we sell are made from recycled fibres or more sustainably sourced materials – like recycled cotton or polyester – and our goal is to make all of them this way by 2030.
We will also stop using new or “virgin” fibres in our clothes unless they’re more sustainably sourced.
How Primark is Becoming More Circular
We’re enhancing the durability of our clothes so they last for longer and by 2027 our clothes will be recyclable by design. So, when our designers and buyers get cracking on a new collection, they won’t just be thinking about what looks great. They’ll also have in mind what will happen when it reaches the end of its life.
To make this a reality we’ll educate our product teams and suppliers about circular design so it becomes part of what they do every day. We will need to consider the fabrics we use, how the garment is put together and whether trims are easily removable so the garment can be recycled.
So, jeans might now be designed with removable buttons or stitches to replace metal rivets. And we’ll keep designs on T-shirts or embellishments like sequins to a minimum.
We’ll also teach the teams about how they can ensure the clothes they create can be more easily recycled at the end of their life.
Think we’re ambitious? You bet we are!
Cradle to Cradle Certified® Denim
But we’ve done it before. 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 people and the planet. These jeans were our most sustainably made yet. They were 100% organic cotton, produced using less water and energy, made to last and designed to be recycled.
EMF and The Jeans Redesign
We’re also working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF), the experts on all things circular. We joined EMF in 2018 as participants in its Make Fashion Circular initiative, to help reshape our industry towards a global circular fashion economy. As partners we’re collaborating with others to speed up the shift to a circular economy.
On top of that we’re taking part in the EMF Jeans Redesign project. The Jeans Redesign project commits us to making more circular jeans that are used more, made to be made again, and made from safe, recycled or renewable materials. We’ve used these principles to make our first Jeans Redesign Collection of organic, recycled denim, which will be available in October.
Doing What’s Right
All this is part of our journey to become a more sustainable and more circular business. 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. We are ready and willing to go full circle on our mission to become more circular as part of our ambition to drive positive change and give our customers better choices.