The Japanese retailer Uniqlo has jumped on the sustainability train, eliminating the use of plastic bags in its stores and switching to eco-friendly paper bags later this month. The bags will cost 15c in an attempt to encourage customers to bring their own reusable bags and will be launched in phases across the brand’s 21 Australian locations. The store will also sell branded bags made of recycled plastic bottles for $2.90.

The switch is part of a move to become more environmentally friendly and coincides with the Victorian Government’s single-use plastic shopping bag ban which comes into effect in November.

‘Sustainability has increasingly become a priority on the global agenda and as a leading retailer, it has been crucial for Uniqlo to look at how we can address this key issue, whether from a clothing design perspective, or current in-store practices. We definitely recognize that Uniqlo has a role to play and the team is consistently exploring new sustainability initiatives to roll out in this market.’ Kensuke Suwa, Uniqlo Australia’s chief operating officer, said.

Woolworths also began offering paper bags earlier this month, in a bid to give more options to customers who forget to bring a reusable bag when shopping. – “The vast majority of our customers bring their own bags to shop, but we know there are occasions when they forget or visit our stores unplanned,” a Woolworths spokesperson said in a statement to Inside Retail. Some customers have told us they would like the option of a paper bag when this happens.”

The adoption of paper bags is one part of Uniqlo-owner Fast Retailing’s ongoing efforts to eliminate the use of unnecessary plastic in its supply chain – having committed to reducing the amount of single-use plastics passed on to customers by 85 percent by the end of 2020. However, it is also looking at other parts of the supply chain and introducing several initiatives aimed at improving the manufacturing process. Uniqlo’s Jeans Innovation Centre has reduced the amount of water used in the washing process of its jeans by an average of 90 percent. The first batch of jeans using this process will be introduced in its 2019 fall/winter season and will be used for all Uniqlo jeans moving forward.

Additionally, the company announced last year it would begin using a material formed from recycled plastic bottles in items of clothing called ‘Dry-Ex’, and that it would recycle down collected in Japanese stores into new products.

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