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M&S_storeLONDON – Marks & Spencer says it will create a new, more sustainable closed loop business model where its customers hand over old or unwanted garments whenever they buy a new one. The move comes in a bid to stop around 1 billion items of clothing and textiles going to landfill in the UK each year.

The UK high street retailer is calling its new concept ‘Shwopping’, which Head of Sustainable Business Mike Barry says is a “way of making the consumption of clothes much more sustainable than it is today.”

The move is part of Marks & Spencer’s Plan A initiative first launched back in 2007, which will now be fronted by well-known celebrity Joanna Lumley who will become the ‘face of Plan A’.

“After 5 years of hard work on 180 social and environmental commitments we are now ready to put our 21 million customers at the centre of our sustainability journey,” continued Barry.  “'Shwopping' will see us extend the great partnership we have developed with Oxfam to encourage the donation of used clothing in their shops so that our customers can also donate used clothing any day of the year in our 342 UK clothing stores,” he said. “All the clothing we collect will still go to Oxfam for re-sale, reuse or recycling to raise money for their vital work around the world to tackle poverty.”

M&S has estimated that around 1 billion items of clothing go to landfill in the UK each year. That’s one in every four garments sold every year or 114,155 items per hour. “It’s too much especially when virtually every item could be reused or recycled in some way,” he added.

Similar schemes have already been seen on the UK high street, with retailer TK Maxx and Cancer Research UK partnering on a clothing take-back program in a bid to raise in excess of £2.5m to help the charity beat children's cancer.

This latest step in Marks & Spencer now puts consumption at the heart of the sustainability debate in addition to its own commitments it is currently working on in its supply chain. It will now be interesting to see what happens to the collected clothes. Will they be broken down, fully recycled and the fabrics used to make new clothing sold in the UK. Or will they simply shipped offshore to consumers in developing economies?

Mike Barry will feature at this year’s RITE Group conference on sustainable textiles, which will be held at Central Hall, London on 10th October. To register your interest in the event, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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