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Marks & Spencer Launches ‘Shwopping,’ Aims to Recycle as Much as it Sells

Marks & Spencer aims to recycle as many clothes as it sells – 350 million a year – with its Shwopping campaign launched today in London, encouraging customers to recycle their old clothing at M&S clothing stores.

The retailer will give all “shwopped” clothes to Oxfam, which will either re-sell them through its website and network of stores, re-use them in international markets where there is demand (for example, summer clothing in Africa, warm clothing in Eastern Europe) or recycle them into new materials. High-quality materials will be recycled into new fabric to make clothing, and low-quality materials will be recycled into products like upholstery and insulation.

According to M&S, some 500,000 tons of clothes are sent to landfill each year, which is equivalent to the weight of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Kalifa.

In stores, M&S customers will be invited to leave their old or unwanted clothes of any brand in cardboard recycling boxes called Shwop Drops. M&S will place more than 1,200 Shwop Drops across the UK, at least two per store, alongside cash registers.

If customers would like to register their shwop, they can follow the instructions on the box to text and enter into a monthly prize draw. Customers can also register their shwops online through a Facebook app.

M&S has worked with Oxfam on clothes recycling for four years. In 2008 the two organizations launched the Oxfam Clothes Exchange. The scheme encouraged people to take their old or unwanted clothes back to Oxfam stores in return for a £5 money-off voucher, redeemable at M&S. The exchange has seen more than 10 million items of clothing donated, worth an estimated £8 million to the charity. It will continue to operate alongside the Shwopping program.

M&S has also named actress Joanna Lumley as its new worldwide ambassador of Plan A, the retailer’s eco and ethical program with initiatives to address climate change, waste, raw materials, health and fair business practices. Lumley will front the Shwopping campaign.

At the initiative’s kick-off event, M&S covered an East London street in 10,000 items of unwanted clothing – the same number that it says go to landfill every five minutes.

M&S recently was named a runner-up in the CR Reporting Awards for its 2011 corporate responsibility report. The retailer also made Ethisphere’s 2012 Most Ethical Companies list.

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