Many brands use takeback systems as the shining star of their circularity commitments. “If you’re due a wardrobe sort out or you’ve got clothes that you can’t repair, reuse or perhaps no longer fit, we’ll take them off your hands and prevent them going to landfill,” claimed highstreet brand Primark when it announced its UK takeback scheme in 2020.
Nike promises its customers it will make sure their used athletic gear will “live on, even when you’re done wearing it”, while Zara “aims to promote the recovery of used garments to extend their useful life while generating a positive impact in your community.”
It’s an attractive proposal – instead of binning your old clothes or having to go to the trouble of sorting them for sale or charity, you can simply drop them at an instore collection point and the brand will do the rest. H&M says it collected the equivalent of 94 million t-shirts in 2020. It’s an impactful, positive stat that makes those donating feel like they’re contributing to a better fashion system. But for a while now, there have been questions about just how effective these schemes are, and thanks to some savvy reporting, we now have more concrete answers. As is so often the case in big fashion, things aren’t quite as clear cut as they appear to be on the surface.