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Carter’s Wants to Keep Used-Up Kids’ Clothes Out of Landfills

Carter’s is the latest industry name to promote textile recycling. The baby and children’s apparel retailer has launched its own recycling program, Kidcycle, in partnership with international recycling company TerraCycle.

The program brings a practical benefit to a common problem—as babies and young children outgrow their clothing, many of the garments simply get thrown out if they’re not passed down or donated elsewhere. With Kidcycle, parents can instead mail the clothes to TerraCycle, where they will be recycled and repurposed.

Carter’s rewards members can receive Rewarding Moments loyalty points from the retailer once TerraCycle receives the package. Members need to use the email address on their Carter’s Rewarding Moments account to ensure points are tracked and awarded.

Another big benefit of the program is that it accepts children’s clothing that is traditionally seen as “non-donatable,” meaning damaged or nicked in some way. Throughout the spring, Kidcycle will accept any brand’s baby and children’s clothing excluding shoes and accessories.

Once collected, the clothing is separated by fabric type, shredded and recycled into materials for another use, such as home insulation and stuffing in workout equipment and furniture.

“At Carter’s, we are committed to doing our part to preserve the environment for today’s generation of children as well as future generations, which is why we are excited to invite parents to join our sustainability journey,” said Antonio Robinson, senior vice president of corporate social responsibility. “Kidcycle is an important step toward circularity, which will help reduce the volume of children’s clothing going to landfills and find additional uses for the recycled materials.”

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To recycle the clothing, Carter’s shoppers first would have to sign up online for a TerraCycle account and download a shipping label before attaching it to the parcel they drop off at a nearby shipping location.

Fashion is paying closer attention to the problem of textile waste. One collaborative industry project advancing the textile industry’s move to circular supply chains, called Accelerating Circularity, released a report in April illustrating models that will be tested in upcoming Circular Textile System trials.

Earlier this month, the British Fashion Council (BFC) launched the Student Fabric Initiative, a “collective community action” offering deadstock or unwanted fabrics to fashion students across the U.K. while reducing waste across the industry. The effort is another example of fashion’s desire to normalize the use of deadstock in runway collections—in February, L.A.-based denim brand Mother launched its first capsule collection featuring reused and recycled materials.

Carter’s isn’t the only brand recently partnering with TerraCycle, with Deckers-owned Teva recently starting its TevaForever Recycling Program through the company as well. The new program encompasses the brand’s entire sandal collection, with the materials being used to make playgrounds, athletic fields and track ground cover.

“We’ll not only be ahead in our operationalizing and socializing a recycling program with our audience, but we’ll also be ahead in our ability to [research and develop] how we can bring those inputs back into our supply chain,” Anders Bergstrom, vice president and general manager at Teva, told Sourcing Journal.

Operating across 20 countries, TerraCycle partners with consumer product companies, retailers and cities to recycle products and packages, from dirty diapers to cigarette butts, that would otherwise end up being landfilled or incinerated. The company works with CPGs to integrate hard-to-recycle waste streams, such as ocean plastic, into their products and packaging.

In 2019, TerraCycle launched Loop, a circular shopping platform that replaces single-use disposable packaging with durable, reusable packaging made from materials such as alloys, glass and engineered plastics.