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Primark defends recyclability of clothes

Fashion giant Primark has hit back at critics who say the store encourages fast fashion.


Primark is owned by Associated British Foods. Its head of external affairs Geoff Lancaster told MRW: We believe our clothes are of an equal quality to those offered by others in the high street. We do not encourage disposability in any way. Our clothes are no less recyclable than those of any retailer.


In terms of reuse our clothes may understandably be less appealing to charity shops because their lower entry price makes them less attractive for resale.


Last year the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs published a study entitled Public understanding of sustainable clothing. The study found that cheap clothes were more likely to be discarded to landfill than given to charity.


When MPs from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee visited a waste disposal site in Croydon last year they found what staff at site called a Primark effect taking place and noticed an increase in textile waste at the site.


Association of charity shops head of policy and public affairs David Moir said the rise of the discount store has put a strain on charity shops. He said that charity shops have difficulty selling poor quality material and that clothes were difficult to price when they are so cheap to buy new.


But a textile industry insider said: I have no reason to disbelieve them [Primark]. There is no evidence that Primark is providing low quality clothing than any other shops. Fast fashion is not the issue. How the clothing has been designed is the real issue. Has it been designed with homogenous material? Was the clothings end-of-life considered at the design process? Those are the questions we have to ask.


Mr Lancaster said that Primarks core customers were low income families. He said: We believe that selling good value clothing fulfils a real need for them particularly in these times of financial stringency.


Press references to disposability usually use phrases like fast fashion or throwaway fashion implying that people wear fashion items once then dispose of them. In fact notwithstanding the above point regarding low income families around 80% of the clothes we sell fall into the non fashion staples category such as underwear, socks, childrens clothes and sleepwear.


Primark plans to cut down on its waste:

* It has set objectives to improve its recycling and waste performance. It plans to recycle food waste from its staff canteens.

* In 2008 it recycled 8863 tonnes of cardboard and 1194 tonnes of polythene packaging.

* All its cardboard and plastic are collected and recycled by waste collection firm Severnside.

Image: Primark store

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