How Love Island is encouraging Gen Z to fall in love with circularity

Gen Z

Zoe Brimelow, brand director at packaging manufacturer and consultancy Duo, believes recommerce is reshaping Gen Z’s attitude towards sustainability. 

The TV show Love Island is more obviously associated with dating dilemmas than circularity. However, a change in the sponsorship of this year’s reality series shows the degree of separation between the show and sustainability is not as far removed as you might first think. 

eBay replaced ‘I Saw It First’ as the TV programme’s headline sponsor. It’s a move that marks a shift from a low-priced fast fashion brand to an online marketplace that’s a pioneer in trading pre-loved clothing and items. It’s believed Love Island changed tack in sponsorship after criticism from sustainability advocates for encouraging a disposable attitude towards fashion.  

Indeed, when announcing the new eBay sponsorship, Love Island executives noted that the show is striving to be more environmentally conscious and highlighted how contestants will wear pre-loved clothing sourced from eBay. Delving beneath the headlines, this is a shrewd move and one that lifts the lid on changing attitudes towards circularity. 

52% of Gen Z consumers resell used fashion items online.

The reality series holds huge appeal amongst Generation Z (people born from 1995 onwards) – a generation widely regarded as driving rapid growth in recommerce, as they increasingly buy, sell, and reuse pre-loved items. This love of recommerce is creating a new appreciation of circularity, which inspired Duo’s recent research of over 1,000 Gen Z consumers. 

Our research found that clothing, accessories and footwear account for 60% of the items that Gen Zs are more inclined to buy in a pre-loved condition, rather than shopping for a new item first. It also highlights that 1-in-5 recent fashion purchases made online by Gen Zs was a pre-loved item and that 60% are more likely to buy from a retailer which sells pre-loved goods. 

Financial motivations such as saving money are fuelling recommerce. However, the research also found that a quarter (25%) of Gen Zs are buying and selling used items to maximise the lifespan of products and to reduce the resources and carbon emissions required to make new ones. Gen Zs are embracing resourcefulness, and this is changing how they view sustainability in packaging and evolving approaches to circularity beyond recyclability. 

Recycling and recyclability have long been the poster child for sustainability in packaging, and this certainly has its merits. Effective closed-loop recycling systems play a crucial role in minimising the dependence on virgin sources of plastic. The emphasis on recycling can also have its drawbacks. It can inadvertently create an obsession that recycling is the way to be sustainable, meaning circular benefits beyond end-of-packaging life are overlooked.  

31% of Gen Zs purchase pre-loved products to save money.

Recycling remains important to Gen Zs, but they also realise there’s much more to sustainability in packaging. Our research showed that when considering the green traits of a plastic mailing bag used for ecommerce orders, 68% of Gen Zs valued the importance of being able to recycle the packaging. More interestingly though, a higher percentage of 77% of Gen Zs felt that the most important green trait of packaging is its ability to help a product arrive in perfect condition. 

There’s growing appreciation of the damage prevention benefits of packaging and how this can also save carbon emissions associated with creating and sending replacement products. This is creating a realisation that packaging can enhance sustainability beyond end-of-life options such as recycling. 

Packaging sustainability is shifting from a recycling-dominated perspective to one that’s being heavily influenced by resourcefulness. When asked what changes they would make to packaging to suit the pre-loved market, the research found that the ability to reseal packaging and to easily change postal addresses ranked highly amongst Gen Zs. They also highlighted the importance of making packaging stronger and longer lasting so that it can be used multiple times.

Gen Zs are increasingly taking a broader view of the purpose of packaging, which is inspired by reusability and resourcefulness. These are defining characteristics of recommerce and are factors that are fuelling much more circular attitudes and actions amongst this generation of Love Island fans.

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