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Aug 03, 2020

New London-based pilot scheme aims to validate closed-loop polybag recycling system

Words by First Mile

Polybag Collection Scheme Pilot re-launches August 3rd. First Mile has teamed up with the global sustainable fashion innovation platform, Fashion for Good, in a new pilot scheme that aims to test a key part of the infrastructure in a future circular system to tackle the issue of plastic polybag waste in the fashion industry. This scheme was initially launched in February but came to a pause due to COVID-19.

Initiated by Fashion for Good, the Plastics Packaging Project, of which the Polybag Collection Scheme Pilot is a part of, aims to identify and scale potential solutions to reduce the impact and use of plastic packaging in the industry. The pilot scheme, which is supported by Fashion for Good corporate partners adidas, Kering, and Stella McCartney, will see First Mile collecting and recycling plastic polybags from retail stores located in central London. These polybags are commonly used within the fashion industry to pack, transport and store garments before they are displayed in-store.

According to research, it is estimated that 180 billion polybags are produced globally every year. Traditionally, the recycling of plastic film - from which polybags are made - poses a challenge due to the wide variety of different types and colours of film ultimately ‘downgrading’ the material into lower-value products during its processing. In contrast, the majority of fashion polybags are made from clear low-density polyethylene (LDPE) film, offering the potential of a clean and pure waste stream that can be transformed into high-quality clear film products again.

With this in mind, the Fashion for Good pilot will test the ability to develop scalable recycling infrastructure in one key city region, where First Mile’s local support plays a crucial role, for the collection and recycling of garment polybags. These polybags will be transformed into new plastic film products, closing the loop and dramatically reducing the amount of retail plastic waste that is simply thrown away.

First Mile Head of Partnerships Jamie McCormack, says: "We're delighted to be working with Fashion for Good to be able to offer a recycling solution for a material that has been a headache for retailers for many years. The initial uptake of the service in February was extremely encouraging, and as London becomes busier over the next few weeks, we expect to see a similar trend. Our message to retailers is a straightforward one - let us help you improve environmental performance and lower costs in a simple way. We look forward to seeing how the pilot progresses as we all work together to achieve a more efficient circular economy."

Katrin Ley, Managing Director at Fashion for Good, comments: “It’s encouraging to see continued commitment to sustainability and innovation despite these unprecedented times. To tackle polybag packaging waste, we need the fashion industry working together to make a closed-loop system a reality; to commit to making current polybags more recyclable, supporting innovation in recycling, and crucially, focusing on systems for the collection of polybags at all places that polybag waste is generated. We are eager to see the results of this part of the Plastics Project with First Mile.”

To find out more about the scheme please contact partnerships@thefirstmile.co.uk

By First Mile

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