M&S launch sustainable clothing initiative

Joanna Lumley posing with a Shwop drop clothes collection binM&S has launched a new initiative, fronted by Joanna Lumley, to reduce the amount of clothing that gets sent to landfill in the UK. 'Shwopping’ will encourage shoppers to donate an item of clothing for each one that they buy. The donations will be collected by Oxfam to resell, reuse or recycle.

An estimated 9,500 items of clothing are sent to landfill every five minutes, a practice that wastes both the resources used to make the clothes and space in landfill sites. The retail giant hopes that shwopping, a portmanteau of swap and shop, will divert clothing towards more sustainables use and build a ‘buy one, give one’ culture towards clothing in the UK. The concept is similar to 'swishing' - the trading of clothes, often at parties or get-togethers - which is growing in popularity.

“We're leading a change in the way we all shop for clothing, forever”, says M&S CEO Marc Bollard. “This is the right, responsible move for the UK's biggest clothing retailer and the ultimate goal is simple – to put a complete stop to clothes ending up in landfill.”

Over 1,200 shwop drop bins will be placed in M&S stores across the country and will be free to use. Shoppers will be encouraged to donate their unwanted items and will be able to enter into prize draws for M&S vouchers.

Oxfam will handle the clothes collections and promises not to send a single item to landfill. Instead, items will be resold through Oxfam’s network of UK stores and website or sent to international markets. Other clothes can be recycled into fabric or insulation.

The scheme is part of M&S’s Plan A, which aims to make it the 'most sustainable' major retailer in the world. M&S has the target of helping its customers recycle 20 million items of clothing by 2015, and due to an ongoing scheme with Oxfam (set up in 2008), it is already halfway there. Ultimately, M&S hopes that shwopping will allow it to recycle one item of clothing for each of the 350 million it sells every year.