Clothing firm expands recycling initiative overseas

Japanese fashion brand Uniqlo is expanding its All-Product Recycling Initiative to all its stores in the key markets of the United States, Great Britain and France from September 1.

The company introduced a Fleece Recycling Campaign in Japan as far back as September 2001 and expanded the scheme to all Uniqlo products in 2006.

The system was first adopted at the company's stores overseas in March of this year, when it went live in South Korea, but now the company is taking it global and intends to have the scheme operating in every country where it has a branch.

Since 2006, Uniqlo has collected more than 11.51 million items of clothing brought back into its stores by customers. The items are then passed on, through independent agencies and NGOs, to people living in refugee camps, survivors of disasters and others in need, the company said.

"At Uniqlo, we believe it is our corporate social responsibility to maximise the value and usefulness of the truly great clothing we produce by collecting, reusing and recycling all of our products," the company said in a statement.

"When we launched the All-Product Recycling Initiative in 2006, we initially intended to recycle clothing for industrial use," it added. "However, most of the items we received from our customers were still wearable, so we shifted our focus from recycling to reuse and began donating the items we had collected to refugee and Internally Displaced Persons camps throughout the world."

From September 1, customers who have bought Uniqlo goods in the US, UK and France will be able to return them and know that they will be put to good use.

Clothing that is soiled or wet cannot be accepted, and customers are being asked to wash the items before returning them.

Uniqlo has risen from humble beginnings in Japan and has become one of the pioneers of "cheap chic."

Its global expansion has come in the face of stiff competition from foreign firms that are cashing in on consumers' preference for cut-price clothing, such Spain-based Zara and Sweden's H&M, which earlier this year launched a range called the Conscious Collection featuring clothes made from "greener" materials and some recycled fabrics.

JR

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