I:CO Provides Fashion Recycling Options

Creative service providers can help boost recycling programs

JGI/Jamie Grill, Getty Images

I:CO serves as an example of how companies can reach out to solution providers with specific recycling expertise in delivering new and innovative recycling opportunities. In January 2017 it partnered with H&M to support the fashion retailer's launch of its "Bring It" Fashion Collection Campaign. H&M has offered garment recycling since 2013, and has collected 44,000 tons of unwanted clothing and textiles during that time.

Customers can drop off unwanted garments of any brand or condition at all H&M retail locations. The company hopes to achieve an annual collection volume of over 27,000 tons annually by 2020.

Who They Are

I: Collect AG or I: CO, a part of SOEX group, is a Swiss company which is a world leader in shoe and garment recycling. The company has a universal commitment to environment. Its philosophy is that everyone can make a contribution to and get involved in something big with a little effort. It collects discarded shoes, belts, bags and clothing from people. It has collection points in the USA and all over the Europe. According to one report, I:CO works with approximately 60 retail partners in 65 countries, including The North Face, Levi's, and Forever 21. The largest partner is H&M.

What They Do

Working with retail partners, I: CO organizes the transport, sorting and recycling of donated textiles for a number of retailers such as Levi's Intimissimi, Reno and Adler.

I:CO provides the infrastructure to guarantee that the important raw materials from discarded textiles go into a closed loop manufacturing cycle.

I:CO collects clothing as well as shoes in cooperation with these retail partners, organizes the transport to the sorting and recycling plant, sorts the items and promotes a closed loop recycling structure.

With that system, it offers producers and retailers an opportunity to sustainably manage the life cycle of their products.

The I:CO take-back system makes textile recycling a convenient experience and creates mutual benefits – for apparel brands and consumers alike. By bringing in their clothes to the stores of I:CO partner companies, customers may receive a redeemable voucher towards a future purchase.

Why I: CO - The Sustainability Imperative

Clothing recycling programs are urgently needed, and not just because only 15% of clothes are recycled in the U.S. Also noteworthy, the World Wide Fund estimates that 20,000 liters of water are required in the production of just 1 kg of virgin cotton, an amount equivalent to a pair of jeans and a T-shirt.  And according to McKinsey & Company, if 80% of people in emerging economies consumed clothing at the same rate as in the West, carbon dioxide emissions would jump by 77% by 2025.

I: Collect is very interesting to the recycling industry, fashion retailers, and consumers because of its creative business model that can boost recycling and provide an environmentally attractive option to retailers and consumers alike. Depending upon the retail program, footwear, clothing, furs and leather clothing, belts and bags, underwear and socks, household and table cushions and linen are all collected in the I: CO designated boxes and at I: CO counters.

The sustainability goal for stakeholders is to incorporate all collected shoes and textiles into a recycling process that entirely eliminates waste products. 

While more than a well organized recovery system is needed to stop the negative environmental outcomes associated with fast fashion, it is an important first step. The I: CO system is a simple solution for increasing clothes recycling while generating brand loyalty and store visits . I:CO has many commercial partners including global leaders such as C & A, Adler and Reno, and Esprit. For every returned kilogram shoes, linen, clothing and other textile items, the partner companies of I: CO donate two eurocents to a charity fund and once that fund reaches to 1,000 euro, the amount is paid for a charitable project.