Come September, Uniqlo will debut its All-Product Recycling Initiative at stores in the United States, United Kingdom, and France. A partnership between the Japanese retailer and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the program has amassed more than 11.5 million articles of Uniqlo-branded clothing for refugees and internally displaced persons since 2006. With our landfills groaning under the weight of 12.7 million tons of textiles per year in the United States alone, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, end-of-life disposal is a more salient issue than before. “As a company the produces and sells approximately 500 million articles of clothing every year,” a representative says, “we bear an important responsibility to collect and recycle garments our customers no longer use.”
CLOTHING FOR ALL
Plans for a clothing-takeback program were first established in 2001, when Uniqlo introduced a Fleece Recycling Campaign in its Japanese stores. Five years later, the brand extended the initiative to include all Uniqlo products, with global expansion in its sights.
Uniqlo will accept any clean, dry, and unsoiled articles of clothing sold in its stores.
“In our efforts to donate clothing to refugee camps, we noticed something. We found that providing clothing was about more than simply giving garments to offer displaced people protection from the elements,” says Uniqlo. “For example, sometimes our clothing donations would make it possible for a child to return to school again, or be what it took to get an individual playing a role in his or her community. Clothing can protect people from disease and injury. It can also facilitate respect among individuals.” Its activities, the company notes, opened its eyes to the “unlimited power of clothing.”
As in Japan, clothing collected at Uniqlo’s U.S. outposts will go to refugee and IDP camps worldwide—Nepal, Uganda, and Bangladesh are some of the recent recipients of its largesse— with the help of the UNHCR. The initiative will kick off in New York City at the store’s SoHo location on September 1, then extend to two new locations as they open at 34th and 53rd Sts. between Fifth and Sixth Ave.
Uniqlo will accept any clean, dry, and unsoiled articles of clothing sold in its stores. Garments that are unsuitable for reuse will be recycled as insulation, industrial fibers, or as fuel for thermal recycling.