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I:CO Short Facts

At present millions of tons of old shoes and textiles end up in the garbage every year. How does I:CO help to ensure that these worn products are reused?

Our aim with I:CO is to create a new awareness – indeed a global movement – for environmentally-sound consumption, so that the professional and sustainable use of natural resources becomes second nature to all of us. I:CO is based firmly on the Cradle to Cradle® principle developed by Prof. Michael Braungart. This has the goal of manufacturing only those products that, because of their components, can be kept indefinitely in organic or technical cycles – so that they never become waste. I:CO provides the infrastructure so that these closed loops for valuable materials are possible in logistical terms. I:CO collects, sorts and processes old textiles so that they can be given a new life.

How exactly are the items collected?

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I:CO collects used textiles and shoes directly where they are sold – at the stores. To this end, I:CO works with a number of partner companies such as fashion store Adler Modemärkte, the dry cleaning company Stichweh Reinigungen, Mister Minit shoe repairs, Vögele Shoes, Maxx Shoes, Bingo Shoe Discount, Mammut and many other others. We provide retailers with various I:CO collection systems. Our partner Reno, for example, has an automatic I:COunter. You throw your clothes or shoes in and the electronic device issues a voucher that you can use when making your next purchase. Vögele Shoes uses an I:CO Display – a box without electronics – that usually stands close to the checkout. After you put something in, you receive a voucher personally from the staff.

How is returning worn clothing made attractive for customers?

Customers see the benefits of sustainability directly at the point of sale. Our commercial partners around the world offer vouchers for returned textiles and shoes, which customers can use against their next purchase of a new item. The value of the voucher varies depending on the country, partner company, and the quantity of returned used textiles and shoes – but it’s always worth it.

What happens to the collected items?

The old textiles are sent from the retailers’ collection points to our sorting facilities. We work here with a large number of package delivery services, thus making use of existing logistics. On his daily run, the package delivery driver picks up the full I:CO boxes and passes them on to our sorting facilities. This way we have highly effective 24-hour logistics with the smallest possible CO2 footprint.

At the sorting facility we analyze every pair of shoes and every single piece of clothing and decide on how they will be processed. This depends on the condition that the collected textiles and shoes are in, and ranges from rewear to recycling.

Are the collected clothing and shoes already being turned into new products?

Upcycling – in other words, the process whereby one product is turned into another product of equal or higher quality – is not possible as yet. At the moment around 40 different components are used for a normal shoe and it is not technically possible to separate them. This is because products need to be designed and manufactured with permanent reuse in mind, right from the start. In this case, I:CO is dependent on initiatives by the manufacturers. Downcycling is however already taking place. Here, for example, a sneaker can become part of a running track or underlay for a children’s playground. We are currently working with our partners on a recycled shopping bag, shoe horns and footmats. We are also working closely with the automotive industry which processes our recovered raw materials into rear shelves for cars or insulation material. The most important aspect, however, is always the consumer. The more the consumer thinks in terms of a “cycle”, the faster this kind of product will be on the shelves – and the sooner upcycling will become possible.

How does I:CO promote the development of new upcycling ideas?

In 2010 we launched the I:CO Award which recognizes innovative upcycling ideas for textiles and shoes. In 2011, for example, the “Maternity Dress” and “Creo Shoe Concept” projects were honored. The first is a maternity dress that is used and then repurposed. The upper part becomes a T-shirt while the lower section can be turned into a baby romper suit or a plush toy.

What role does corporate social responsibility play at I:CO?

For every kilo of collected shoes and textiles each I:CO partner company donates 2 eurocents to I:CO’s donation portal CharityStar. A donation clock is ticking away on the website www.charitystar.com. Once the figure of 1,000 euros is reached, this amount is paid out to a charitable project. Every user is allowed to post his own project and let the I:CO Community vote on it. At the moment we are paying out 1,000 euros two or three times a month. The last two winners, for example, were a learning center for AIDS orphans in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, and an education program for young farmers in Mweso, Congo.

In which countries is I:CO already active?

At the moment I:CO has around 3,000 collection points all over Europe and in the USA. If all of the companies who have already expressed an interest or are testing the I:CO system join in, we will have a total of 20,000 branches. Our plan is to have 135,000 branches worldwide by 2017 because, in addition to our existing markets, we intend opening the first collection points in Asia, Australia and Africa this year.

How does I:CO manage to bring previously unused items back into circulation?

We need collection systems that offer people economic benefits, and that is precisely one of I:CO’s corporate goals. The more upcycling methods there are, and the higher the demand for recycled raw materials in the world markets, the more textiles and shoes we can keep in circulation. However, somebody has to work towards this, drive it on and keep it moving: That is exactly what I:CO does.

What is I:CO’s goal for the next 10 years?

We want to have all the shoes and textiles we collect in a permanent cycle by 2020 at the latest. However, in light of rapidly growing public awareness that we cannot continue exploiting the planet forever, and that sustainable economic reforms are urgently necessary, we are confident that we will achieve 100 percent reutilization by 2020.

 

PRESS RELEASES

I:CO Launches First I:CO City Initiative with the City of San Francisco

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Mayor Ed Lee, I:CO and partners H&M, The North Face, American Eagle Outfitters and Levi Strauss & Co. make commitment to help renew city through new zero waste textile initiative

 

San Francisco, CA—January 15, 2014— I:CO (http://www.ico‐spirit.com), a leading global, end‐to‐end solutions provider for clothing, shoes and other textiles reuse and recycling, today launched its first ever I:CO City initiative with the City of San Francisco. The launch creates a public, private and non‐profit infrastructure to make it easier, convenient and rewarding for residents and businesses to recycle textile related items. In alignment with San Francisco’s goal of Zero Waste by 2020, I:CO will serve as the lead textile collection and processing partner to divert waste from landfill and give these items new life. Along with the city, I:CO and its retail partners H&M, The North Face, American Eagle Outfitters, Levi Strauss & Co., the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, and Goodwill Industries sent a strong message of their collective commitment to the goal and implementation of the initiative. Additional I:CO retailers supporting the launch are Puma, Forever21 and Skunkfunk.

“We are extremely pleased to be launching the country’s first city‐wide Zero Waste Textile Initiative in the City of San Francisco,” Guillermo Rodriguez, Policy and Communications Director for the San Francisco Department of the Environment. “We are leading the way in waste diversion with a 80% diversion rate and in sustainability policy and this partnership with I:CO is another reason why we are the ‘Greenest City in North America.’”

“We are very honored to be working with the City of San Francisco on this critical initiative,” said Stephan Wiegand, CEO of I:CO. “This program will bring much needed awareness of the textile waste challenge and help create a new consciousness around sustainable consumption. I:CO provides a simple solution for doing something good. We are excited about the impact our services and expertise can have on a city‐wide scale.”

In the current global textile scenario, re‐wear and reuse delay the discarding of clothing, shoes and other textiles, but ultimately, 100% go to the world’s landfills. Much of this waste releases harmful greenhouse gasses in the decomposing process. No system currently exists to permanently remove textile products from the waste steam. I:CO's goal for 2020 is, in conjunction with its partner companies, to place at least one item from each apparel and footwear product category group into a permanent, everlasting product cycle loop.

“I:CO is signaling one of the most important intentions being manifested in the world of redesign: circulating things humans make with an endless material, energy, and creative resourcefulness,” said William McDonough, designer, author, and sustainability thought leader. “I:CO is instigating and provoking clothing and shoe collection programs that allow commerce to take in these items and reutilize, renew and regenerate with them. Nature reuses everything it produces; I:CO is an invaluable piece of a movement that will ultimately allow manufacturers, retailers, and their customers to emulate natural systems, circulating materials in endless beneficial reuse.”

I:CO partners with brands to collect used clothing and shoes at retail outlets and reward the customer for their efforts, effectively extending product responsibility for the manufacturer, increasing product lifespan, and creating a profitable experience. No other company in the world has a comparable global solution for delaying the process of these items becoming waste. Through extensive procedures, textiles are sorted using upwards of 400 criteria to allocate as second‐hand clothing, reuse as cloths, recycled into fibers and paddings or upcycling into a product of equal or higher quality. I:CO’s vision is for all products to be designed with future uses in mind, so materials can be 100% reused in a truly endless cycle.

About I:CO
I:Collect USA (I:CO®), a subsidiary of the SOEX GROUP, is a global, end‐to‐end solutions provider for apparel, footwear and other textiles reuse and recycling. Through its simple take‐back system and worldwide infrastructure, I:CO aims to keep used clothing and shoes in a continuous closed loop product cycle thus reducing waste, preserving material resources, protecting the environment , enabling sustainable consumption, and renewing communities and our planet. For general information, visit www.ico‐spirit.com. For more details on I:CO City San Francisco, visit www.ico‐spirit.com/sf

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