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This fashion brand wants you to send your old undies back for recycling

As circularity is slowly but steadily making its way into the fashion industry, a handful of companies, such as Levi’s and Patagonia, are nudging consumers to return their old products so they can be refurbished and resold. The thing is, the secondhand market isn’t an option for certain pieces of clothing — among which is, obviously, underwear.

A startup known as the Big Favorite wants to change that by asking you to send back your underwear when it eventually wears out. Their circular plan is simple: After the undies are cleaned and sanitized, the cotton will be recycled into yarn that can be reused in new products.

“We’re looking to change the way people see their worn-out undergarments and teach them that instead of [being] trash, it can actually be a future resource,” says founder Eleanor Turner.

According to Turner, about 11 million pounds of T-shirts and underwear are thrown out each day in the US. To help divert that waste, the Big Favorite has put together a system: After their products reach the end of their life, consumers scan a QR code to create a free shipping label, give the underwear one last wash, and send it back to the startup.

Once it receives the item, the Big Favorite sorts and sanitizes it before sending it to textile recyclers to shred and turn into new yarn. The same system is applied to secondhand T-shirts.

Since the company just launched, it still doesn’t have a supply of old undies to use for making new ones. But by 2023, it hopes to have recycled 15,000 pairs. “Eventually, we want to work that into our own supply chain,” Turner says. “The goal is to close the loop for the Big Favorite.”

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