A clothing company in Philadelphia, U.S., says it's bringing circularity to underwear by encouraging customers to return worn underwear bought from its shops rather than throwing them away, as per a report published in the World Economic Forum.
Approximately 5 million kilograms (11 million pounds) of used underwear ends up in landfills across the U.S. every day, the company, The Big Favorite reports.
By returning their used underwear, customers get the opportunity to receive credit in their account to buy other garments, or donate to a climate-friendly initiative.
"We know it’s sort of weird to think about sending back your understuff," the company states on its website. "But throwing things into landfills is way grosser.”
The company asks that all items are washed before being returned, and it promises all items are processed anonymously.
The campaign comes as the fashion industry faces increasing pressure to reduce its environmental impact on the planet. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, an organization that promotes the circular economy, approximately $500 billion a year is lost due to clothes "being barely worn and rarely recycled."
The foundation also says the fashion industry could use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050, if current practices aren't changed.
The Big Favorite's comprehensive approach to circularity
Initiatives such as the United Nations' Alliance for Sustainable Fashion aim to address the issue, though undergarment, and clothes, recycling is a tricky — and to some, sensitive — undertaking.
As Big Favorite's underwear is made using 100 percent cotton, the recycling process is easier than it would be for other garments that include synthetic fibers.
"Brands will try to approach circularity as an afterthought, but that’s inauthentic. It has to be part of your approach from the very beginning," The Big Favorite's founder, Eleanor Turner, said in an interview with Vogue.
"Our products were specifically designed for their 'end of life' – they’re engineered to come apart easily," she continued. And that is the only context we can think of in which underwear coming apart easily is a good thing for humanity.