Marks & Spencer (M&S) today announced that it will use polyester made from recycled PET  drinks bottles instead of virgin polymer to make over 300 million clothing care labels a year.
The labels will also carry a new message  – ‘Recycle with Oxfam’ – to encourage customers to use the M&S and Oxfam Clothes Exchange  which rewards customers who donate their clothing in Oxfam stores with a money off voucher to use at M&S.
Two million garments a year are already recycled through the scheme and, as part of Plan A, M&S has made a commitment to help customers to recycle 20 million items of clothing a year by 2015.
The new labels will start to appear in M&S clothing in stores early next year and will cover two thirds of M&S’ annual use of washing and care instruction labels. Approximately two million recycled plastic drinks bottles will be used every year to make the labels.
Gordon Henman, General Merchandise Packaging Technical Manager at M&S, said, “This is a fantastic example of how a small step can make a big difference. Using an environmentally friendly material to make a 4cm x 2cm care label makes a big impact when you multiply it by 300 million.”
“As part of Plan A, we’re committed to ensuring that the raw materials we use come from the most sustainable sources. Increasing the amount of recycled material we use in products and packaging will help us achieve this commitment and reduce our impact on the environment,” he added.
Instead of making the labels from virgin polyester, which is made from oil-based polymers, the new labels are made from ‘post consumer waste’ plastic bottles. The bottles are collected through the recycling system, granulated and washed. They are then melted and turned into yarn by forcing the liquid through a shaped die. The yarn is then woven into a care label and printed.
About Plan A
Plan A is Marks & Spencer’s eco and ethical programme which aims to make M&S the world’s most sustainable major retailer by 2015. Launched in 2007 and extended in March 2010, it takes a holistic approach to sustainability focusing on involving customers, involving all areas of the business, and tackling issues such as climate change, waste, raw materials, health and being a fair partner.
 Polyethylene terephthalate – a type of polyester used in synthetic fibres.
 ‘Recycle with Oxfam’ message to appear on all labels with the exception of items that Oxfam stores do not accept, for example knickers and under pants.
 The M&S and Oxfam Clothes Exchange launched in January 2008. Customers donating any unwanted items of M&S clothing in an Oxfam shop receive a £5 off when they spend £35 voucher at M&S on clothing, home and beauty. Since launch, over £3 million has been raised for Oxfam. Visit www.oxfam.org.uk/mands for more information.
Source: M&S Press Release dated October 1, 2010.