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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

American Eagle Outfitters Expands Clothing Recycling Program


Clothing retailer American Eagle Outfitters is expanding its partnership with I:Collect (I:CO), a closed loop textile recycling company. AE added a clothing and shoes recycling program in all of its 823 stores in the U.S. and Canada, beginning June 14.

The program allows customers to drop off unwanted clothes, shoes and textiles from any brand into boxes marked I:CO at any North America store. The customers will then be rewarded with a text code for $5 off a pair of AE jeans to be used in the store that day. The proceeds from the program will be donated to the Student Conservation Association. The expanded program builds on a pilot program with I:CO in AE’s corporate offices, in six stores and in San Francisco, and it is I:CO’s largest North American partnership.

I:CO works with more than 60 partner brands to collect and sort donated clothes, shoes and textiles in over 50 countries. Other brand partners include H&M, Levi Strauss & Co., Footlocker, Puma and Forever21. I:CO’s  goal is to integrate 100 percent of the textiles and shoes collected into a recycling process by 2020. To date, 30 percent of the collected items are recycled in a closed loop system.

Reaching that goal will help reduce water use and carbon dioxide emissions: Producing just one T-shirt uses 10,000 to 30,000 liters of water and generates 3.6 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions. With a recycling process in place, only 5 to 10 percent of water and carbon are used or produced.

Some end uses of collected materials include using textiles for insulation materials or as cushioning and filling material for stuffed toys, insoles or bags. Old shoes are turned into floorings, keyrings, protective packaging, pellets or hard casing.

“We are committed to helping protect the environment through sustainability programs at American Eagle Outfitters and believe that launching the recycling program with I:CO will be a great way to make a big impact in protecting our planet,” said Helga Ying, vice president of External Engagement and Social Responsibility at AE. “With the help of our customers, we can prevent clothing and shoes from being simply tossed away so they can be reused or reverted to basic materials for manufacturing, producing far less waste.”

The expanded I:CO program builds on AE’s recycling efforts. The company has recycling programs in place at its corporate offices and distribution centers in the U.S. and Canada. In distribution centers, a wide variety of items are recycled, including cardboard, batteries, aluminum cans, toners, paper, plastic bales and shrink wrap.

In 2010 alone, its Pennsylvania and Canada facilities recycled 183,951 tons of paper and 6,021 tons of cardboard bale. That same year, AE donated 33,000 pairs of ripped jeans to Habitat for Humanity to be recycled into housing insulation and 138,000 pieces of broken jewelry to Materials for the Arts, which provides free materials to charitable and educational organizations for use in arts programs. The company also holds yearly two-week event every August called "Clean and Green" to encourage employees to get rid of confidential corporate documents in an environmentally-friendly way.

Image credit: Mike Mozart

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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