Property giant to launch textile recycling scheme at major shopping centre

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Westgate shopping centre | Credit: Landsec

In response to MPs’ call for fashion recycling tax, Landsec announces plans for ‘interactive donation point’

Property giant Landsec has announced plans to install ‘interactive donation points’ for old clothes at its Westgate shopping centre in Oxford, in response to growing speculation the government could introduce a tax on new clothes to fund recycling efforts.

Last month MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee called on the government to impose a one penny tax on retailers for every item of clothing sold in the UK, in order to help raise funds for a nationwide textile collection and recycling system.

Around three hundred thousand tonnes of clothing still ends up in household bins every year, with around 20 per cent of this going to landfill and 80 per cent incinerated. In their report MPs concluded voluntary efforts to push up recycling rates were not driving enough progress.

In its recent wave of Waste and Resource consultations the government signalled it could consider extending so-called producer responsibility schemes, which require manufacturers to part-fund for the recycling of their products, beyond the packaging sector in the future. The move raises the prospect of a new obligations being placed on clothing manufacturers and retailers. 

But Landsec yesterday insisted a voluntary approach could still work, promising to mobilise an alternative plan that will “focus on collaboration rather than taxation”.

“Michael Gove is right to be concerned about the impact fast fashion has on the environment, but now is not the time to introduce a new levy in bricks and mortar retail,” said Ailish Christian-West, head of property, retail portfolio, at Landsec. “Both retailers and retail landlords undoubtedly have a role to play in reducing the amount of textiles which end up incinerated or sent to landfill.

“At Landsec, we believe that through innovation and collaboration, we can make a significant and positive impact without placing an additional financial strain on the retail industry. We will be measuring the impact we have and look forward to sharing our results with the minister.”

The trial scheme – dubbed ‘spring clean, think green’ – will launch on March 4 and run at the Oxford site for one month, Landsec said, with the weight of the total clothes collected measured at the end in order to judge its success. Different incentives for consumers to recycle their clothes will be tested, including weekly competitions, the firm added.

Collections will be run by I:Collect, which collects old clothes and passes them on to charities such as Breast Cancer Prevention and Troops Aid.

Tom Byrne, sustainability manager at Landsec, said a collection scheme run by a property manager may prove more effective than traditional clothing banks.

“Clothing banks have existed for a number of years, but what we feel has been missing is a landlord-led initiative which can really drive up recycling rates in key retail destinations; our kiosk will bring the experience of recycling to life for customers and we’re hopeful that a less passive waste strategy will translate into greater enthusiasm for recycling textiles,” he said.

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