Primark, one of the largest fast fashion chains in Europe, is committed to making all of its clothing from recycled or “more sustainable” materials by 2030.
The clothing retailer, which sells more than a billion items a year including sweaters and jeans for as little as £ 7 each, has pledged the move will not raise prices.
“We believe that sustainability should not be charged at a price that only a minority can afford,” said Managing Director Paul Marchant.
Currently, 25% of Primark clothing is made from recycled or more sustainable sources.
Greenpeace International welcomed the announcement, but cautioned that the term sustainable can cover a wide range of practices, saying some of Primark’s practices “do not appear to be ‘sustainable’ enough.”
“For example, Primark’s sustainable cotton program still uses pesticides and fertilizers that harm biodiversity, ecosystems and the climate,” said Viola Wohlgemuth, Consumption and Toxics Campaigner at Greenpeace Germany.
Ms Wohlgemuth called for a commitment to organic cotton and an end to the use of polyester, which is made from fossil fuels and releases microplastics when washed.
Fashion represents approximately 10% of greenhouse gas emissions of human activity and the clothing and textile industry is one of the biggest drain on water resources, according to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).
The industry has long been criticized by environmental activists, who have criticized its heavy use of water and chemicals as well as the millions of items that end up in landfills.
Rivals H&M and Zara also set out plans to improve the use of sustainable raw materials.
Primark has also set goals to improve the durability and recyclability of its clothing, as well as halve its carbon emissions and “aim” for a living wage for its supply chain employees.
Dexter Galvin, global director of business and supply chains at CDP, called the emissions target “laudable,” but said the announcement was “long in ambition and not detailed,” calling for more great transparency in the years to come.
“Society demands that these companies just lip-service the idea of a low-carbon society, that they really do these reductions,” he said.
An estimated £ 140million worth of clothing is sent to landfill in the UK each year, and demand for raw materials is expected to triple by 2050, according to the WRAP charity.
At the moment, the industry is failing to recycle, said CDP’s Galvin.
“Only 12% of finished products end up being recycled,” he said. “Which is a shocking statistic for an industry that has truly been the center of a lot of scrutiny for many years.”
Wednesday’s announcement marks the first time that Primark has released its own measurable goals, and it is committed to reporting on its progress annually.
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