Money in your pants: Levi’s new recycling program offers 20% discount for old duds

There’s gold in them there used garments! Well, at least a 20% discount at a Levi’s store.

Levi Strauss & Co.'s recycling incentive

San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co. announced Tuesday that customers who drop off a clean, dry item of clothing or a pair of shoes at any U.S. Levi’s store (outlets included) — of any brand — will receive a voucher for 20% off the purchase of a regular-priced in-store Levi’s item.

According to Tuesday’s announcement, Americans annually discard some 28 billion pounds of clothing, footwear and textiles, with about 15% going to charitable organizations and 85% — some 24 billion pounds — going into landfills. By making the recycling of unwanted wardrobe items easier — and worth a decent discount — the company hopes to divert even more discarded duds from the trash heap.

Levi’s has launched the garment take-back program in partnership with Switzerland-based I:CO (the name stands for “I collect”), a company that specializes in reuse and recycling of apparel, footwear and textiles worldwide. After being dropped in the in-store collection boxes, I:CO will sort the clothing and shoes with wearable items being resold and not-so-wearable items being upcycled or repurposed into a range of goods, including insulation, padding and cleaning cloths.
And Levi Strauss & Co. isn’t stopping there. To highlight a new women’s denim collection, the brand is launching what it calls a “Friday Fashion Exchange,” at which women who bring in a pair of “gently worn jeans” for recycling — and try on the new collection — will walk away with an additional voucher worth $10 off any item from the new women’s collection. That offer is good every Friday at mainline Levi’s stores through Aug. 28.

July 21, 12:46 p.m.: An earlier version of this article said customers participating in the “Friday Fashion Exchange” would receive a voucher worth an additional 10%. The amount of the voucher is $10, not 10%.

“We’re thinking about sustainability across all facets of our business and how to shift consumer behavior to make recycling clothing the norm,” said Michael Kobori, vice president of sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co., in Tuesday’s announcement. “As an industry leader, we consider all phases of our product life cycle, including stages beyond our direct control, like the product’s end point. Collecting used clothing at our stores makes it simple and easy for consumers to do their part and builds upon our commitment to do the right thing for the environment.”

The clothing and shoe recycling program is part of Levi’s larger sustainability initiative, which is aiming for a circular economy by 2020 — a scenario in which jeans and other apparel are designed and manufactured in a way that makes them easily recyclable, thereby decreasing the need for virgin cotton.

Other efforts include manufacturing jeans using less water, and urging consumers to do their part by washing their jeans less. Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh made headlines — and wrinkled a few noses — on that last point back in May 2014, when he pointed out that he hadn’t washed the pair of five pockets he was wearing in more than a year.




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