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This App Wants to Make Apparel Recycling Easier for UK Consumers

Landfills are often the last and least desirable destination for used apparel, but a new tech development looks set to help U.K. consumers recycle clothing and curb the excess bound for landfill.

Yellow Octopus, a U.K. sustainable solutions company, launched what it says is the nation’s first app for recycling unwanted apparel. Dubbed reGAIN, the app is designed to help consumers turn in their unwanted apparel, and in return receive discount coupons for U.K. retailers.

“We are realists, not idealists. We know that we can’t stop people from buying clothes, but we can incentivize them to change their habits and divert hundreds of tons of clothing from U.K. landfill,” Yellow Octopus founder Jack Ostrowski said. “The reGAIN app turns commercial sustainability into action and provides a modern solution for fast fashion lovers by rewarding sustainable behavior.”

According to Yellow Octopus, unwanted garments contribute to 300,000 tons of apparel going to landfills annually and as much as 95 percent of apparel thrown away could have been upcycled, recycled or worn again. In addition, Yellow Octopus found that more than one in 10 consumers discard their clothes rather than give them to charity or to be recycled, while 27 percent of London consumers committed this habit.

ReGAIN is working to resolve these issues by providing U.K. consumers with a seamless way to recycle their garments and earn promotions at their favorite high street brands. Once consumers download the app on the App Store and Google Play, they can ship their old garments, accessories and footwear to reGAIN free of charge from more than 20,000 drop-off points across the nation. To foster a more closed loop system, the app only accepts one drop off per week per consumer.

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When the clothes arrive at reGAIN, they are either reworn, recycled, upcycled, reused or turned into combustibles for energy production. In return, consumers will receive discount coupons to use at their preferred shops. The app partnered with many popular brick-and-mortar and online retailers, including Asics, Missguided and New Balance.

The U.K. has been taking a lead in fueling in a more circular economy, and consumers there are following suit. According to data from reGAIN, most consumers said they would use the app to have their unwanted garments recycled and reused. The app’s data said 67 percent of consumers would recycle more if they were rewarded for the task, 66 percent of consumers would recycle more of it was seamless and didn’t cost them money, and 56 percent said they would recycle more if they knew about the negative consequences of apparel pollution.

“The reGAIN app provides consumers with a three-fold ‘Do Good’ scheme: firstly, to do good for their living space through decluttering; secondly, to do good for their wallet, by receiving coupons and shopping for less; and thirdly, doing good for the planet, by diverting clothing from U.K. landfill,” Ostrowski added. “With 49 percent of people we surveyed planning to do a spring clean of unwanted clothing this month, we hope many of them will consider using reGAIN app to prevent these items from becoming waste.”