The switch is here. Japanese retailer, UNIQLO, has eliminated the use of plastic shopping bags in stores by switching to glorious eco-friendly paper bags, marking another giant leap in its effort to improve sustainability globally.

The home of our favourite tees, knits and down (to name but a few) has rolled out paper shopping bags across all the brand’s 21 stores in Australia, which are sold for $0.15 to further incentivise customers to bring and use their own bags instead. The shift from plastic to paper is indicative of the brand’s growing commitment to minimising its carbon footprint, something which is close to the brand’s heart. “Unlocking the Power of Clothing” is UNIQLO’s vision for the future of fashion: to turn the power of clothing into a force for good across all facets of the fashion food chain – from products to employees, supply to stores.

“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,” COO of UNIQLO Australia Kensuke Suwa explains. “Whether from a clothing design perspective, or current in-store practices.” And with so many brands merely scratching the surface of sustainability, or purporting outwardly declarations of change yet actively not doing very much behind the scenes, UNIQLO’s plastic-to-paper transition is a mighty one.

“Introducing the paper bags nationally is one of the steps we are taking in our move to become more environmentally friendly, and is well-timed to coincide with the Victorian Government’s single-use plastic shopping bags ban which comes into play this November,” Suwa adds. “We definitely recognise that UNIQLO has a role to play and the team is consistently exploring new sustainability initiatives to roll out in this market.” Simply changing your windows, so to speak, is not good enough, and UNIQLO know this.

In addition to the paper bags, which are made of FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper or recycled paper, UNIQLO Australia are additionally retailing branded, eco-friendly reusable bags for $2.90. Made from plastic PET bottles, the reusable bags were introduced to similarly provide customers with environmentally-friendly options when they shop, and gives their lovely linen or Ultra Light Down a happy, sustainable home.

It also forms part of a wider mission of its parent company – Fast Retailing – to eliminate the use of unnecessary plastic in its supply chain, as well as reduce the single-use plastic passed to customers at its stores worldwide by 85% by the end of 2020. This includes shopping bags and product packaging which currently amounts to around 7,800 tonnes annually.

But binning the plastic is just part of UNIQLO’s efforts to proactively address sustainability. Innovations through its LifeWear are striving for a cleaner, greener and greater future, also, as UNIQLO works to redefine sustainability in apparel by making sustainable purchase choices effortless and anxiety-free for customers. Across its vast and varied LifeWear, recent product initiatives champion recycling and preservation.

There’s its iconic UNIQLO Down, where UNIQLO stores collect used UNIQLO down items from customers to extract then cleanse it before it is repurposed for new UNIQLO down merchandise (In-store collections of the pre-owned UNIQLO down items will start later this year initially only in Japan, and some down products from the 2020 Fall/Winter season will employ this recycled material).

There’s its reduced water usage when it comes to making Jeans (UNIQLO’s perfect cuts an essential in everyone’s wardrobe). The process of making jeans has long required large quantities of water, but UNIQLO’s Jeans Innovation Centre has cleverly created a new washing process to reduce water wastage. Through a combination of nanobubbles and water-free ozone cleansing, UNIQLO is able to use an average of 90 per cent less water in the wash process. The first batch of these jeans were introduced globally as part of the 2019 Fall/Winter season and the technology will soon be used for all UNIQLO jeans.

And there’s DRY-EX, UNIQLO’s revolutionary material that quickly wicks away sweat and moisture. From 2020 Spring/Summer, UNIQLO will begin to introduce DRY-EX items of clothing that incorporate high-value-added polyester fibres derived from reclaimed PET bottles. In partnership with Toray Industries, Inc., UNIQLO will use contaminant filtering technology that makes it possible to manufacture fibres from recycled PET material, whose features are commensurate with those of fibres from plastic made directly from petrochemical feedstock.

Innovative, impactful and most importantly meaningful change; this is how UNIQLO is helping to change our future. And with such steps in sustainability, what a bright future it looks.