The fashion giant is expanding its clothing recycling programme to all mainline and outlet stores in the USA.

Shoppers can drop off clothes and shoes of any make or brand and in return will also receive a 20% voucher for any regular item’s in the store. Levi’s will work with I:CO, its clothing collection partner, to ensure all the clothes are recycled or reused.

The company says the move is part of its initiative to create an infrastructure to support the circular economy by 2020. Levi’s vice president of sustainability Michael Kobori said: “We’re thinking about sustainability across all facets of our business and how to shift consumer behaviour to make recycling clothing the norm.”

Fashion exchange

The move expands on the company’s Friday Fashion Exchange, which encouraged women to try on new jeans and hand in old pairs for a discount. Americans are thought to discard more than $28bn of unwanted clothing and shoes per year, with only around 15% of these being collected by charities for redistribution or recycling.

Levi Strauss has started implementing further sustainability measures in its production process. Earlier this year, the company announced it has saved a billion litres of water since 2011 by reducing the water used in its garment finishing by 96%.

“As an industry leader, we consider all phases of our product lifecycle, including stages beyond our direct control like the product’s end point,” added Korobi. “Collecting used clothing at our stores makes it simple and easy for consumers to do their part and builds upon our commitment to do the right thing for the environment.”

Sustainability trends

The move adds to a growing sustainability movement within the fashion industry. Last year, eco-clothing company Rapanui started offering store credit to consumers who returned last season’s clothing. A similar initative is offered by Dutch-based firm, Mud Jeans. 

However, some have expressed concern that many high street fashion brands are more concerned about public image than genuine sustainable policies, with only around 4% making significant efforts to reduce their greenhouse emissions.

This week also saw the launch of Edinburgh’s International Fashion Week, which has seen sustainability take to the catwalk in order to encourage debate about a sustainable future for the industry. The week is being organised in collaboration with Zero Waste Scotland, with the group leading two special events. Unused clothes in the UK are thought to value almost £30bn, with an average of 30% of household clothes never being worn.

Event founder Anna Freemantle said Scotland was leading the way in sustainable fashion and innovation and hoped the event would help add to further sustainability partnerships. She said: “This year we are discussing some of the important themes which are set to mould the fashion scene for the future.”

Read more on sustainability in the fashion industry in edie’s feature: ‘Sustainability: fashion’s latest trend?’

Matt Field

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