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Next for recycling? Brands taking back all of their products (and recycling them responsibly and innovatively).

While in times of recession, economic interests tend to overrule eco-causes, the quest for a more sustainable lifestyle will remain a most pressing issue for years to come. We picked one ‘green’ trend (out of many) for this 2012 list: the phenomenon of brands helping consumers recycle by taking back all old items from customers, and then actually doing something constructive with them.

Because, as our recent Trend Briefing on RECOMMERCE introduced, consumers are increasingly aware not only of the financial value in their past purchases, but the material and ecological value of ‘stuff’ as well. Insert your own eco or generous angle [here]. We have dubbed this all-encompassing recycling on steroids ‘ECO-CYCOLOGY’. Sometimes prompted by new legislation*, sometimes by brands seeing the light (yes, it happens), these programs leave consumers no excuse to not recycle in 2012.

* ECO-CYCOLOGY mentality is more than a just brand-led phenomenon; realizing its importance, various cities or states in US (San Diego, Seattle and San Francisco to name a few) have enacted their own mandatory recycling laws. Likewise, The European Parliament has voted for tougher regulations on the disposal of electronic trash, requiring each country to collect 4 kilos of e-waste per citizen by 2012, and to process 85% of all its electronic waste by 2016.


  • As part of US outdoor brand Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative, any item bought from Patagonia that has reached the end of its ‘life’ can be returned for recycling into new fiber or fabric. The company claims to have so far taken back 45 tons of clothing for recycling and made 34 tons into new clothes.
  • Nike’s trailblazing Reuse-A-Shoe scheme (first launched waaay back in1990!) has collected and recycled over 25 million pairs of worn-out Nike shoes to-date. Old shoes are sliced, separated and ground up into a material called Nike Grind, which is then used in creating athletic and playground surfaces, as well as a variety of Nike products.
  • French beauty brand Garnier began partnering with US based environmental charity Terracycle in April 2011 to host the Personal Care and Beauty Brigade program. Offering free collection and recycling of all personal care and beauty related products, the brigade traveled between US cities, where attendees could recycle beauty packaging (and be awarded points or money). The waste packaging is then used to make playground equipment across the US. Filled bags could also be sent via UPS for free, with Garnier meeting all costs.
  • Dell runs Dell Reconnect in partnership with Goodwill Industries. The scheme allows users to take their electrical equipment, from any brand, to one of Goodwill’s 2,200+ participating locations in the United States or Canada, where it will then be refurbished or recycled.