Addressing Plastics and Packaging Issues in the Fashion Industry

clothes rail

Plastics in Fashion are a real concern. While the fashion industry is making progress on the issue, there is a gap in the way the fashion industry is addressing plastic packaging. There is a need for a strategic approach alongside a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities across this sector.

Anthesis, together with our partner R3 Imagin/able in France, hosted two interactive sessions on plastics in fashion, bringing together Promod, New Look, Boardriders (including Quiksilver and Roxy) and other brands to the conversation.

Changing Expectations

During such unprecedented times, global stakeholders are aligning around the packaging and plastic agenda to drive collaboration and innovation. The impacts are wide-reaching with businesses and supply chains working to deliver customer needs through new business models and partnerships and in line with emerging policies. Businesses must balance the need to address the current agenda with making the right longer-term sustainability choices.

Plastic challenges for the fashion industry

Ongoing changes to attitudes towards plastics and packaging cause challenges for the fashion industry. Consumers and regulators are increasingly cautious. The issue is multi-faceted and can be confusing and complex for customers and brands, retailers, and suppliers.

Globally, production of plastic is predicted to increase. Polyester is a key type of plastic for many industries, including the textiles sector. Growth in Polyester production to date has been almost exponential and is set to continue across all key Polyester markets. Within the fashion world, growth of the Athleisure market and the fast fashion market contribute to driving demand. As does packaging.

Plastic packaging is prevalent across the sector, at all stages of the value chain. Common types of plastic packaging in the fashion industry include:

  • Carrier bags
  • E-commerce packaging
  • Garment Polybags

Taking a Strategic Approach to Plastic Packaging

A sustainable packaging strategy is an approach that aims to reduce the negative environmental and social impacts of packaging. This can involve assessing the lifecycle of packaging material options and the availability of waste and recycling infrastructure to process waste materials.

To address plastic packaging in a way that makes sense for business and the environment, brands and retailers should develop a sustainable packaging strategy.

With plastic and packaging continuing to take a front seat in the news, environmental regulations, NGO campaigns and activism, forward-thinking businesses will have started the journey to make their packaging more sustainable. But with an understanding of complexities such as material substitution options, carbon emissions, and responsible sourcing required to ensure that packaging is truly better for the environment, setting a sustainable packaging strategy can seem like a daunting and complex process.

Working Collectively to Overcome the Challenges towards a Sustainable option for Polybags

In this interactive workshop, sustainability managers, Anthesis and R3 Imagin/able worked collectively to:

  • Define the different sustainability challenges implied using Polybags for fashion brands today
  • Imagine an ideal scenario where the easy solution would be possible
  • List the different hurdles that prevent these easy solutions to be implemented
  • And identify solutions that could alleviate the different hurdles

Thanks for the collective intelligence of the committed brands’ members who joined this initiative. We came out with great ideas to tackle this key issue of plastics in fashion. I now hope we will keep on going to materialise some of those ideas in great and innovative projects!

Thomas Busuttil – Founder and Managing Director, R3 Imagin/able

As a summary of these two sessions, we shared best practices and explored the benefits of collective intelligence to identify solutions for the recycling of plastic packaging in fashion (Polybags, hangers, plastic bags, labels). A unified approach of brands, in collaboration with their suppliers and recycling stakeholders, would make it possible to develop a simple and efficient recycling sector in France.