I:CO offers garment collection and a sustainable end-of-life solution for used clothing, textiles and shoes. Every day, 300 tons of these unwanted products go through I:CO’s sorting plant in Wolfen, southwest of Berlin. Each item is sorted by hand and manually categorised according to 420 different criteria, based on quality and material.
There are three major categories for a second life of the collected items:
In accordance with the waste hierarchy, the golden rule is ‘Reuse before recycling’. All waste handling requires energy resources but by making sure all garments and shoes in good condition are transferred to second-hand markets, the energy consumption and the environmental impact can be kept to a minimum.
Products that are not in a condition to be used as intended are sorted out, cut into pieces and transformed into cleaning cloths for car workshops.
Textiles that cannot be used for either rewear or reuse go to recycling, by shredding the fabric back and reusing its fibres. Some fibres can be spun into new yarns and woven into new fabric, such as ‘recycled denim’, while others are transformed into insulation for use in cars or buildings.
The recycling process is dusty work – but not even the dust goes to waste. The leftovers are gathered and pressed into bricks that can be used within the cardboard industry.
Constantly innovating the recycling process, I:CO has developed a unique new program for taking care of shoes. ARKET is proud to be one of the first retailers in the world to offer the service of collecting worn-out shoes for recycling.
Shoes in good condition go to the second-hand market. The ones that cannot be worn again are mechanically torn and shredded into smaller pieces, then sorted into different materials. Textile fibres are gathered with the fibres from clothing and transformed to insulation. Foam and rubber from the soles are extracted and ground into granulate which can then be used for making new foam and soles, or even floor mats.
I:CO’s sorting plant is partly powered by solar panels and use neither water nor chemicals in the production. Only 6 percent of all materials handled by I:CO become leftovers that cannot be processed at the facility, such as metal trimmings, and are passed on to other specialised waste services. Everything is considered a resource – nothing is ‘just trash’.