ASOS to trial reusable packaging in drive to cut plastics waste

Online fashion retailer ASOS is set to trial reusable packaging in early 2020, after months of work to develop an alternative to single-use plastic mailing bags.

ASOS is one of the world's largest online fashion retailers and saw a 13% year-on-year increase in sales in 2019. Image: ASOS

ASOS is one of the world's largest online fashion retailers and saw a 13% year-on-year increase in sales in 2019. Image: ASOS

 

The move forms part of a new plastics strategy from the company, which today (16 December) revealed that it has joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment.

Launched last year, the Commitment binds signatories to creating a “new normal” for plastics packaging by 2025, in response to the Foundation’s prior finding that there could be more plastics in the sea than fish by 2050 without rapid action from corporates and governments.

ASOS has approached this requirement by pledging to eliminate all “unnecessary” or “problematic” plastic packaging items from the business and to ensure that all packaging is 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable. The target for both of these commitments has been set at 2025.

The company noted in these new commitments that while 100% of its packaging is currently recyclable in principle, it is not yet recyclable in practice – due to issues regarding processing and collection infrastructure.

Flexible plastic mailing bags are a prime example of this challenge; they are not accepted by all of the UK’s local authorities in kerbside collection and are often considered to be low-value due to their weight and pigment.

“We’ve been working hard to reduce our use of plastic across ASOS, including investing in developing our ASOS mailing bags, which will contain 65% recycled material in the new year and are already 100% recyclable,” ASOS’s responsible sourcing director Simon Platts said.

“However, there’s always more we can do, which is why we’ve become a signatory of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy Global Commitment.”

Planet-friendly packages

Reusable packaging for online shopping is currently being used by the likes of John Lewis and Partners and Zalando. But, outside of small businesses, the model remains very much in its infancy, with the global fashion sector using 180 million polybags annually.

Balancing the practicalities of such a model with the demands of plastic-focussed consumers will, therefore, doubtless be a challenge for many professionals in the online retail space.

To that end, Adidas, C&A, Kering, PVH Corp and Otto Group have teamed up under a new initiative aimed at developing a “truly circular” solution to plastic mailing bags for garments.

Facilitated by Fashion For Good, the initiative will see these retailers pilot polybags made using recycled content and without the inks and adhesive which make many models hard-to-recycle. Trials of these bags will last for three-to-five months before meetings are set up to develop a roadmap for upscaling the solution.

Sarah George



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