The pilot will run for three to five months and culminate in what Fashion for Good hopes is a scaled, mainstream fashion industry solution that “can reduce the use and impact of the polybag, and potentially, decrease our dependency on fossil fuels feedstocks.” Fashion for Good will leverage its plastics innovation partner Cadel Deinking for the deinking and recycling of waste polybags that are collected from brand partners’ distribution centers and retail stores.
Although the plastic (low-density polyethylene) in use today is recyclable, there is room for improvement. And if Boston Consulting Group’s projected growth of the global apparel and footwear industry does amount to 102 million tons by 2030, and shipping items via traditional polybags is still the norm — that’s a significant amount of waste.
The patented process by Deinking proposed in the pilot can recycle waste polybags into pellets for the re-manufacture of new polybags, without the traditional contaminants of ink. Further findings are outlined in the white paper, “Polybags in the Fashion Industry: Evaluating the Options’” just released by Sustainable Packaging Coalition and Fashion for Good.
What traction have global initiatives shown? Many brands including Ganni and Burberry have committed to the New Plastics Economy, set forth by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative. The former said to “find a solution to the single-use polybag” by 2025 and the latter to “launch a compostable shroud and polybag by the end of 2019.”
But despite lack of action for the industry, some brands have already rolled out solutions to the polybag in their entire operations. San Francisco-based brand Amour Vert already employs one such alternative. The “non-poly” bag is 100-percent biodegradable and compostable, only costing a couple of cents more, as reported by WWD. But even then, there are usually “no specific separate collection system for compostable packaging,” according to the report from Fashion for Good. Too, outdoor brands Prana and REI have reduced or eliminated their polybag usage outright, in another means of reducing the reliance on the polybag.
Returnable solutions from the likes of Repack, Returnity and LimeLoop are also available or currently employed.
Suggestions from both Fashion for Good and The Ellen MacArthur highlight the need for improvement in recycling and recyclability of polybags to realize a truly closed-loop system, which is no small feat.
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