The environmental impact of fast fashion is, quite literally, piling up.
To be exact, around 300,000 tonnes of clothing was sent to landfill sites by Britons last year.
reGAIN is an app which aims to change shoppers’ attitudes about unwanted clothes. Instead of consumers chucking their used items into the trash once they’re done with them, it offers rewards of coupons and discounts with retailers for recycling their clothes.
Because who wouldn’t want to save a little money from doing something good for the planet?
Our culture of waste is having a huge environmental impact
Decades ago, “repair, re-use, recycle” was an ingrained idea. That’s no longer the case.
The average number of times a garment is worn before it stops being used now has decreased by 36% compared to 15 years ago, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s A New Textiles Economy report.
And research from the sustainability charity WRAP in its Valuing Our Clothes report found that around 6% of the clothing items we buy goes straight into the bin once we’re done with them.
In the U.K. that means around 50 trailers full of used clothing waste going to landfill sites every day.
Statistics like these shocked the founder and CEO of reGAIN, Jack Ostrowski, into action. He was already working within the fashion and textiles industry but immediately thought there must be a way to stop used clothing ending up in landfill.
Rewards for good behavior, not reprimands for bad actions
reGAIN is only a year old, but its simple idea has already been winning over shoppers.
Download the app, pack up 10 items of clothing items you don’t want anymore, find the closest of reGAIN’s more than 20,000 drop-off points to you, recycle your clothes there and you can earn coupons and discount codes with some of the nation’s favorite online stores.
Instead of using fear tactics to scare consumers into action, Ostrowski acknowledged that you can’t just ask people to shop less. That approach won’t work.
However, giving consumers a reward is much more likely to elicit an environmentally-friendly action.
“People are not responsive to you asking them to save the planet. We decided to try a different approach: we wanted to go digital and make it very easy for people. It’s all about making it convenient for the consumer,” Ostrowski explained.
reGAIN is specifically targeting younger millennials who are the worst culprits for endorsing dispoasable, fast fashion.
“We need to convince consumers who are crazy about fast fashion to recycle. That is the only way to make an impact,” Ostrowski said.
reGAIN decided the best way to convert this audience to recycling their clothes is offering them a tangible benefit.
Instead of earning nothing from binning their garments, they could instead receive a 25% discount with New Balance, or money off orders with Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing and I Saw It First for recycling them.
And reGAIN’s coupons aren’t limited to fashion retailers. It also works with the homeware store Made.com, supplements business My Protein, and even the flower company Interflora.
Retailers can benefit from real eco credentials
But consumers aren’t the only ones to benefit from reGAIN’s model.
Fast fashion retailers in particular have been demonized for creating and contributing to our throwaway culture, and then washing their hands of all responsibility.
“They created the social problem,” Ostrowski said. “And we are all paying for it.” He added that he’d like to see it become a legal obligation for clothing manufacturers to ensure recycling is available when consumers are done with their products.
While many shops have improved their eco credentials by making pledges to lessen their environmental impact, conscious consumers are wising up to the fact that promises about the future excuse retailers from acting now.
“It is not only about what you are planning to do, but what you are doing at the moment,” Ostrowski explained.
By working with reGAIN, shops are making it easier for consumers to recycle, and they’re rewarding the consumers who make environmentally conscious choices.
Expect reGAIN to become a household name
Ostrowksi is planning to expand reGAIN into European markets by the end of this year, and eventually wants to take the app global.
As well as adding more partner retailers, he is also working with charities to create reGIVE, which will make it even easier for consumers to donate their used clothes to organizations they want to support.
The ultimate aim for reGAIN’s founder is for consumers to internalize thinking about where their clothes will end up after they’re done with them, so recycling will just become second nature.
“I would like to divert more clothing from landfill, and for the re-use or recycling of clothing to be part of shopping habits,” said Ostrowski.
As reGAIN continues to win over more fast fashion converts, what’s not to love about an app that makes it simple and rewarding to recycle your old clothes?