The UK’s first app for the recycling of unwanted clothing has been launched today (18 April) as research claims 73 per cent of consumers no longer wear up to half of the items of clothing they own.
According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), an estimated 300,000 tonnes of clothing ends up in landfill in the UK every year. The reGAIN app seeks to contribute to diverting clothing from landfill by organising collections of unwanted clothing in return for discount coupons for major retailers and lifestyle brands such as Superdry, Asics, boohoo and Expedia.
The app was developed by Jack Ostrowski, founder of Yellow Octopus, which provides commercial sustainability solutions to the fashion industry and has worked with brands such as ASOS, John Lewis, Primark and all major UK supermarkets for the past 12 years. It aims to change people’s behaviour and perceptions when it comes to clothing, encouraging reflection on the value of clothing and the destination of our unwanted garments.
Commenting on the app, Ostrowski said: “We are realists, not idealists. We know that we can’t stop people from buying clothes, but we can incentivise them to change their habits and divert hundreds of tonnes of clothing from UK landfill. Our long-term goal is a world in which clothes never become waste.
“The reGAIN app turns commercial sustainability into action and provides a modern solution for fast fashion lovers by rewarding sustainable behaviour. Stopping clothes from going to landfill is the first step towards a circular economy.”
The UK has a particular problem with fast fashion, with research carried out by reGAIN finding that one in ten people throw their clothes away rather than give them to charity or recycle them, while 73 per cent of people admit to no longer wearing up to half of the items of clothing they own.
reGAIN aims to address this issue by raising awareness of the importance of recycling clothing, and by providing a simple and rewarding way for people to recycle more. After downloading the app, users can ship their old clothes, shoes and accessories to reGAIN free of charge from over 20,000 drop-off points across the UK. In return, they will receive a discount coupon so they can shop for less.
In order to keep the carbon footprint to a minimum, reGAIN app only accepts one drop per week per customer, with a minimum of 10 items in each shipment. Once the clothes reach reGAIN app, they are either reused and reworn, recycled, upcycled or used as combustibles for energy production.
It certainly seems counterintuitive to try and incentivise more responsible clothing and textile use by offering people discounts on clothing from high street retailers, the home of fast fashion, when we should be trying to reduce the amount of clothing we use in the first place. What is even more questionable is the fact that reGAIN would send clothing to burn for energy production; while we certainly need to be diverting textiles from landfill, burning them is not a solution that should be considered for this waste stream.
Despite this, the app has certainly stirred up some enthusiasm for textile recycling, with a survey carried out by reGAIN finding that the majority of respondents said they would use the reGAIN app to get their unwanted clothes reused and recycled. The survey also found that 67 per cent of people would recycle more if they were rewarded for doing so; 66 per cent would recycle more if it was free and easy to do so; and 56 per cent would recycle more if they knew how much environmental damage sending clothes to landfill causes.
Ostrowski added: “The reGAIN app provides consumers with a three-fold ‘Do Good’ scheme: firstly, to do good for their living space through decluttering; secondly, to do good for their wallet, by receiving coupons and shopping for less; and thirdly, doing good for the planet, by diverting clothing from UK landfill. With 49 per cent of people we surveyed planning to do a spring clean of unwanted clothing this month, we hope many of them will consider using reGAIN app to prevent these items from becoming waste.”
The launch of the app coincides with Fashion Revolution Week, which starts next week (23 April) and will see a series of events taking place around the world to prompt consumers to think about how their clothes are used and made. reGAIN has also taken inspiration from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Fibres Initiative, which is working to advance a circular economy for textiles.