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Reformation’s RefRecycling Makes Recycling Clothes Easy for Lazy Shoppers

Any fashion retailer that tags its petite collection “Don’t Call Me Cute” and launches a line of full-cup clothing called “I’m Up Here” gets that Millennial women don’t suffer bad marketing gladly. And Reformation, a cool-girl clothier with tongue-in-cheek campaigns, gets it.

That’s why the Los Angeles-based company, whose mission is to lead and inspire a sustainable way to be fashionable (or a fashionable way to be sustainable), decided to call a spade a spade when it launched RefRecycling last July, promoting it as “the easiest way for you to recycle all those clothes you probably shouldn’t wear again.”

“People are really lazy,” laughed Kathleen Talbot, who handles sustainability and business operations at Reformation, presenting the retailer’s take-back initiative during Fashion Positive’s recent working day in New York. “When you think about the people that are throwing things away, it’s because it’s not as convenient, it’s not as accessible. It’s because they’re not going to remember to grab it on their way out to do errands.”

And because the likes of H&M’s in-store garment collecting program wouldn’t work for Reformation (which does about 75 percent of its business online), RefRecycling is a mostly online initiative.

Through a partnership with Community Recycling (CR), the retailer includes a RefRecycling pre-paid shipping label with all of its e-commerce sales. Shoppers can then re-pack the box their order came in (or any box) with unwanted clothing (from any brand or retailer), slap that label on it and ship it to one of CR’s centers.

“There’s no purchase necessary to print one off online and you can print as many as you want, whenever you want,” Talbott noted, adding that the labels are available in Reformation’s three stores, too. Plus: “You have an option to track your stuff to see where it ends up, whether it’s a thrift shop in Philadelphia or a secondary market in Haiti.”

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It’s free for users and it’s free for Reformation. CR covers the cost of the labels and the shipments, but as a for-profit recycling service, it also gets the full revenue off the sale of the material.

“Right now, we’re doing it because we want to do it, but maybe [our shoppers] need an incentive,” she said, noting that because CR partners with USPS and FedEx to aggregate loads, palletize them and then ship them in batches, her numbers are on about a two-month delay. “But we’ve had a few hundred people using it, at least in the first month or two, and we’re hoping we can scale that, especially as we up our engagement.”