The fast fashion giant also promised to halve emissions, but environmentalists fear the plans are too light on detail.
Image: Primark sells more than a billion items each year
Primark, one of the largest fast fashion chains in Europe, has pledged to make all its clothing from recycled or “more sustainably sourced” materials by 2030.
The clothing retailer, which sells over a billion items a year, including jumpers and jeans for as little as £7 each, promised the move would not push up its prices.
“We believe that sustainability shouldn’t be priced at a premium that only a minority can afford,” chief executive officer Paul Marchant said.
Currently, 25% of Primark’s clothes are made from recycled or more sustainably sourced materials.
Greenpeace International welcomed the announcement, but warned the term sustainable can cover a wide range of practices, claiming some of Primark’s “don’t appear to be ‘sustainable’ enough”.
“For example, Primark’s sustainable cotton programme still uses pesticides and fertilisers which damage biodiversity, ecosystems and the climate,” said Viola Wohlgemuth, consumption and toxics Campaigner at Greenpeace Germany.
Ms Wohlgemuth called for a commitment to organic cotton and an end to the use of polyester, which is made from fossil fuels and releases microplastics when washed.
Fashion accounts for around 10% of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity and the apparel and textile manufacturing industry is one of the biggest drains on water resources, according to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).
The industry has long come under fire from environmental campaigners, who have criticised its heavy use of water and chemicals as well as the millions of items that end up in landfill.
Rivals H&M and Zara have also set out plans to improve the use of sustainable raw materials.
Primark has also set targets to improve the durability and recyclability of its garments, as well as halve its carbon emissions and “pursue” a living wage for its supply chain workers.
Dexter Galvin, global director of corporations and supply chains at CDP, called the emissions target “laudable” but said the announcement was “long on ambition and short on detail”, urging greater transparency in the coming years.
“Society is demanding that these companies no longer just pay lip service to the idea of a low carbon society, that they really actually make these reductions,” he said.
An estimated £140m worth of clothing is sent to UK landfill each year, and demand for raw materials is expected to triple by 2050, according to waste charity WRAP.
At the moment the industry is falling short on recycling, said CDP’s Mr Galvin.
“Only 12% of the finished goods are actually end up getting recycled,” he said. “Which is a shocking statistic for an industry that really has been at the centre of a lot of scrutiny for many years.”
Wednesday’s announcement marks the first time Primark has published its own measurable targets, and it has pledged to report back annually on its progress.
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