Consumers face a dilemma—they want to do good to help the environment, but they don’t have time to research every item they purchase to ensure it is sustainably and ethically made. One recent survey found that 65% of consumers want to buy from sustainable, purpose-driven brands, but only 26% actually do. A large part of that disconnect is the time and overwhelm of finding the best products. That’s where companies come in. Consumers are relying on companies to produce items responsibly and make it easier for them to get the items they need while limiting the harm to the environment. Increasingly, companies are getting creative and turning trash and recycled items into new products.
Making the most of trash can move items destined for landfills into the hands of eager customers. For as much as consumers may claim to care about the environment, they still want to buy nice things. Recycling items and turning trash into new products could be the balance we need between retail and the environment. One person’s trash really can be another person’s treasure—but it’s up to brands to recycle items.
The resell and thrifting industry is a huge opportunity for brands and the environment. If everybody bought one used item this year instead of buying new, it would save 449 million pounds of waste. The resale market as a whole is expected to grow to $64 billion by 2025. In 2019, the resale market grew 25 times faster than the overall retail market. Many brands are using the momentum to start their own recycled goods programs.
Lululemon recently started testing a trade-in program where customers can return gently used Lululemon items to select stores in exchange for a gift card. Those items are then sold at a discount online through the store’s Like New program. All items are cleaned before being resold, and items that don’t meet Lululemon’s quality standards are recycled.
Nike is also starting a buyback program for gently used shoes. There’s a huge demand for rare Nike shoes, and customers will soon be able to turn in their gently used or flawed shoes at select stores, which will then be cleaned and resold at a discount. Lululemon and Nike are just the latest in a string of retailers offering incentives to customers and reselling gently used items.