We’re committed to reducing fashion waste throughout 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 throughout 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 come up with a new approach to getting products to stores. It’s designed to minimize packaging and waste at every stage of the process – from packing in factories 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 in our stores, particularly for cardboards, plastics and hangers.
Our iconic brown paper bags have been spotted on streets since 2001 [. 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've 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 lets us 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, we trialed cardboard hangers and tags on soft accessories like hats, scarves and gloves. After a successful rollout, the hangers and tags for jewelry, hair products and belts were also changed from plastic to cardboard.
In 2020, Primark removed 175 million units of plastic from our business, from hangers to packaging. We also removed 86 million labels and stickers from our products, and we’re working hard to eliminate single use plastics by 2027.
Furthermore, our carton optimization program provides guidance to suppliers on how to optimize shipping packaging. The program has so far saved 2.26 million square meters of corrugated material from being produced, shipped and recycled (4% reduction in overall volume). The program 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 of reducing our use of single use plastics to move to more sustainable packaging materials.
We Care About Clothes Waste
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, lets UK customers 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 programs for vulnerable children around the world.
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 Fall 2020, we more than doubled our available items made using recycled materials. And that’s just the beginning. We already offer a wide range of clothes made using recycled polyester, from essential items like jackets, denim, and sleepwear to swimwear and duvets. We’re also continuing to increase the amount of recycled fibers 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 longer. We want our customers to wear these pieces time and time again, which is why we’re focusing on creating clothes that are made to last by enhancing their durability. We’re doing this by developing a new Primark Durability Standard to help educate customers on how to care for different types of Primark clothes.