M&S returns to its “shwopping” clothes recycling program

Customers can now donate to Oxfam the fruits of their lockdown clearouts.

Marks & Spencer will this week return to its popular UK “shwopping”, which is designed to keep clothing out of landfill six months after it was destroyed by the  coronavirus.

From Thursday, customers can donate any unwanted clothing, shoes, or accessories to 287 stores that have clothing sections.

The scheme, launched in 2012, is part of the retailer’s Plan A programme and an expansion of a partnership with Oxfam, which began in January 2008 and has led to more than 35m items being donated, worth a total of PS23m.

The retailer started the scheme by encouraging shoppers to donate unwanted M&S clothing to Oxfam in exchange for a PS5 voucher. Later, it evolved into “shwopping”, which encourages shoppers to donate their clothing when they shop in-store.

Customers can donate clothing to Oxfam via large cardboard boxes. These items are then resold or sold online by Oxfam.

Carmel McQuaid is the head of M&S sustainable. She stated that “At M&S our goal is to source every our products with care, and ensure nothing goes to waste.” She stated that shwopping is “a program that many of our customers depend on as they shop for new staples with us – and it’s now more important than ever for those who have been decluttering”.

M&S will quarantine any items for 48 hours in accordance with government guidelines before sending them to Oxfam. Online, the retailer will now include information about the “sustainable raw materials” it uses to make its clothing products. This information is available for over 4,000 items.

According to a report by the environmental audit committee, 300,000 tonnes clothing end up in household bins each year, despite high charity-shop donations rates prior to the pandemic. 20% goes to landfill, while 80% is burned. Due to the rise in popularity of “fast fashion”, approximately PS140m worth of clothing was sent to landfill each year in the UK.

At the beginning of lockdown, charity shops were forced to close and, while many have reopened since June’s end, some have restricted donations and had their work halted by a lack of volunteers.

The all party parliamentary group for ethics, sustainability in fashion urged the government to take immediate steps to fix fast fashion. This included boosting clothing recycling and supporting the development and production of fabrics that have a lower environmental impact.

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