The scheme was initially launched in February but came to a pause due to Covid-19

The scheme was initially launched in February but came to a pause due to Covid-19

A pilot scheme that aims to tackle the issue of plastic polybag waste in the fashion industry has relaunched in the UK this week after coming to a pause earlier this year due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

The Polybag Collection Scheme Pilot was initially launched in February in a partnership between recycling company First Mile and global sustainable fashion innovation platform Fashion for Good.

It is part of the Plastics Packaging Project, which was initiated by Fashion for Good in a bid to identify and scale potential solutions to reduce the impact and use of plastic packaging in the sector.

Supported by Fashion for Good corporate partners Adidas, Kering, PVH Corp, and Stella McCartney, the London-based pilot scheme 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.

"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," says First Mile head of partnerships Jamie McCormack.

Katrin Ley, managing director at Fashion for Good, adds: "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."

It is estimated that 180bn polybags are produced globally every year, Fashion for Good says. 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.

The garment polybags collected by First Mile 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, the firms say. 

The initial launch of the pilot project followed the December announcement of the Circular Polybag Pilot by Fashion for Good, which works to reduce the use and impact of virgin polybags in the fashion industry by developing a fully circular solution based on recycled content.

Both pilots aim to investigate the means of creating a circular polybag system in the fashion supply chain.