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World Environment Day: Sustainable second-life strategies to become part of Covid-19 recovery plans  

By Robert Lockyer, CEO of luxury packaging provider, Delta Global. 

The recent restrictions on our movements have led to the biggest drop in CO2 emissions ever recorded. But World Environment Day comes as a reminder that a great deal of work is still to be done, if we are to minimise or even eventually reverse the impacts of climate change on our planet, our societies, the ecosystem and thousands of other species.

 As some semblance of normality begins to be restored, with non-essential shops gearing up to reopen on 15 June in the UK, “sustainable strategies should be the focus for businesses’ coronavirus recovery plans,” 

Offering bespoke, waste-free solutions to some of the biggest names in fashion and beauty, the company’s founder and CEO urges brands to remain focused on the goals set out in the G7 Fashion Pact last year of halting climate change, restoring biodiversity and protecting the oceans.

 In this piece, Robert sets out how breathing a second and even third life into clothing, products and packaging is a key step in achieving a circular economy.

Whilst quick wins and marketing ploys might be tempting to get people back into stores, brands must try not to undo any efforts made pre-pandemic and the inadvertent effects of the lockdown.

But it is both brands and consumers who are responsible for ensuring that measures aiming to restore the economy also protect the planet.

We’ve seen a huge shift in people’s spending habits, as our attention turned during the pandemic from the latest fashion trends to the genuine gratification we get from hobbies and the environments we find around us. As we transition out of this period, money will be a concern for many but, having experienced life without the constant need to spend, consumers will have different priorities and attitudes.

This is where giving goods a second life will be valued. Whether it’s buying second-hand clothing or reusing packaging, the end of a product’s life cycle will become the beginning of another. And brands who recognise, educate and encourage this will prosper.

Even before the pandemic, it was predicted that the second-hand market will be 1.5 times bigger than fast fashion by 2028 and used items are forecast to make up 13 percent of people’s wardrobes. With coronavirus applying pressure to people’s finances, it would seem this trend will become more entrenched.

The problems associated with fast fashion are no secret and consumers are beginning to understand the impacts of keeping up with constantly evolving trends and the latest Instagram must-haves.

Fast fashion is easily disposable, with little to no opportunity to reuse or resell items. Whilst affordability is a key incentive, high-end goods can be kept for much longer, recycled and then resold, which can recoup some of their original financial outlay.

This shift is reinforced by the increasing number of users of preloved sites, such as Vestiaire Collective, who encourage consumers to sell luxury items they no longer want to new owners who are ready to give them another life.

Not only are sellers reimbursed but buyers can enjoy luxury items on a budget, which will be a welcome opportunity in the post-pandemic economic climate.

But, as well as selling items, repurposing is another trend that should be encouraged in order to combat the environmental impact of the fashion industry.

It is predicted that the global textile industry will account for 25 percent of all carbon emissions by 2050, which illustrates just how important this is.

So, whether you’re using old clothing or fabrics as an alternative to wrapping paper, designing a bespoke cushion cover or following the government’s guide to making a face mask, any attempt to recycle or repurpose will help reduce the industry’s burden on landfill.

That said, an end goal of net-zero carbon will entail a collective effort from all parts of a supply chain, packaging included. Brands have recognised the need for recyclable packaging that is FCS accredited but more must be done, if we are to make a real impact.

For those still using polythene, looking at what alternatives are available is a good place to start. Or, perhaps thoughts on how your packaging can be used beyond simply keeping items secure in transit and delivery. It’s all about giving packaging an opportunity for a second life, no matter the materials used.

At Delta Global, we offer anti-crush and magnetic removal systems in our solutions that not only make recycling more efficient but also maximise the longevity of the packaging to encourage a second and even third life. The long-lasting and aesthetically pleasing packaging designs can be incorporated into customers’ homes, included in second-hand sales to increase value or reused in a different way.

I admire companies, such as Lush and John Lewis, who reward customers for returning packaging. By incentivising a return culture, not only do brands encourage loyalty but they also minimise their environmental impact and can even reduce their packaging costs. It’s a win-win situation for all.

No one could have predicted the global pandemic let alone the impact it would have on the environment. With CO2 emissions down and businesses resuming activity, the prospect of a sustainable future has never been brighter. Nonetheless, we mustn’t lose our focus, so a collaborative effort certainly looks the best way forward.