Technological change is happening at such breakneck speed that the duration cycle between shop window and dustbin is shrinking all the time. In the past we would throw things away when they stopped working; now we discard perfectly functional items on a whim, driven by relatively minor product changes.
Enter the newest sustainability trend within the retail industry: upcycling. Upcycling is reusing discarded objects or materials to create a product of higher quality or perceived value than the original.
Around 93% of global consumers expect more brands to support local social and environmental issues, according to a report by the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA). The report also found that customers are estimated to spend up to 20% more on environmentally sound products.
Adidas, one of the most sustainable companies is leveraging upcycling to transform plastic, which was earlier used to be dumped in the ocean, into high-performance sportswear. The company is aiming to offer consumers real added value beyond the look, functionality and quality of the product, through upcycling. Over the past two years, Adidas has produced 6 million pairs of shoes by upcycling collected ocean plastics into yarn to make uppers for shoes, spinning the problem into a solution.
Similarly, Sharp and Kansai Recycling Systems Co., Ltd. enables the continual recovery of plastic from used consumer electronic products. They have developed a technology that integrates everything from recovery to quality control in the upcycling process. This increases the volume of recyclable plastic year after year and contributes to a sustainable recycle-based society.
Tommy Hilfiger is set to launch 100% recycled cotton jeans in spring ’19. The sustainable denim is the result of dedicated research by setting new standards for producing denim efficiently and in a more environmentally-friendly way. While Innoval Technology has partnered with Brunel Centre for Advanced Solidification Technology (BCAST) to develop upcycling technologies to process aluminium scrap.
NREL scientists have developed upcycling process that transforms single-use plastic bottles, and fabrics made from a common polyester material into more valuable products with a longer lifespan. It upcycles PET bottles into long-lifetime, high-value composite materials like those that would be used in car parts, wind turbine blades, surfboards, or snowboards.
As retailers leverage consumers’ wants and needs for environmentally sound products, technologies are now converging to make this a reality, from efficient recycling and reprocessing to consumer-driven analytics that help retailers create the products customers will want and avoid producing excess inventory of the ones that would just sit on the shelf – and eventually end up in the landfill.
Credits : Akhil Handa,Manish Kulkarni