New clothes recycling app is branded ‘counterproductive’

A new app has been launched to persuade people to recycle their unwanted clothes – by encouraging them to buy even more clothes from fast fashion retailers.

The reGAIN app, which was launched this week offers users discounts for budget retailers such as Missguided, In The Style and Boohoo – who sell dresses for as little as £4 – and travel company Expedia, which sells cheap flights. 

Tim Cooper, Professor of Sustainable Design and Consumption at Nottingham Trent University told Femail that while encouraging people to recycle is to be applauded, the initiative risks being counterproductive. 

‘There’s a danger of the rebound effect, which is when consumers get a financial benefit through doing something that reduces environmental damage and promptly spends this on an activity that harms the environment,’ he explained. 

‘If this is threatened, the initiative risks being counterproductive.

Founder of reGAIN Jack Ostrowski told Femail: ‘While it might seem that reGAIN is incentivising people to buy more, we have to be realistic.

I don’t believe we can stop people from buying new clothes. But I do believe that it is possible to encourage people to behave more sustainably with the items they no longer want.

The reGAIN app, which launched earlier this week, encourages people to recycle their unwanted clothing and offer discount vouchers in return 

As well as discount coupons from fashion outlets, the reGAIN app also offers experiential and travel vouchers, as well as retail brands, so people can get discounts on their travel, nutrition products and homeware, rather than purely buying more clothing.

‘The overall aim is to reduce clothing going to landfill, and the reGAIN app does this by encouraging people to recycle. 

At present, clothes are going to landfill needlessly: reGAIN is the first step towards a circular economy in fashion by collecting the clothes to be reused, reworn or recycled.’

How can you reduce clothing waste? 

If you’re concerned about the environmental impact, these are Professor Tim’s top tips.  

Buy better quality: Clothing waste remains a major problem, so try to buy  clothing that is made to last. 

Buy second hand: The quality is far better than it used to be and it no longer has the stigma of the past. 

Learn to repair and alter clothes: A huge amount of clothing is left in wardrobes for long periods and ought to be brought back into use. 

Wash clothing at low temperatures: And put a load on only when necessary, rather than out of habit. 

People who use the app can ship their unwanted clothing to reGAIN for free from one of 20,000 drop off points across the UK, where 95 per cent will be reused and recycled, with the rest used as combustibles. 

On dropping off their package they will receive a discount coupon via the app.

Ostrowski hopes that the initiative will help reduce the amount of clothing going into landfill, which currently amounts to 300,000 tonnes a year

However, Professor Tim argues that is not necessarily the right way forward.  

‘Sustainability cannot be simply “bolted on”,’ he explained. ‘The company needs to look at its activities as a whole from a sustainability perspective.

‘There’s a lot of good practice in the clothing industry. For example, many leading companies are signed up to an initiative from WRAP called the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP). 

‘If the company is serious about reducing environmental damage it should only offer discount incentives from these companies.

‘From a sustainability perspective, the company should rethink its business model. Among the incentives offered is a website you can use to buy cheap flights. 

‘The environmental benefits of recycling clothes will be far outweighed by the harmful effects of flying if the discount coupons are spent on this.