A new pilot initiative is testing the effectiveness of digital care labels that use a QR code for providing information from washing instructions to materials and recycling.

Avery Dennison, which specialises in designing and manufacturing labelling, has launched the pilot with consumer fashion and lifestyle brand UpWest and ReCircled, an apparel and footwear recycling and reuse organisation.

The collaboration aims to demonstrate how Avery Dennison’s Digital Care Label solution can be used in an upcycling context in a way that could be used by garment manufacturers and decorators.

Avery Dennison’s Digital Care Label can offer information on product care and content through “a digital experience” that showcases the sustainability story around the garment’s origins and where people can dispose of it in a sustainable way.

For the pilot initiative, the QR code on Avery Dennison’s “Digital Hang Tags” take consumers through the product’s story, providing guidance on garment care and allowing them to engage with the UpWest brand.

In partnership with ReCircled, a collection of upcycled chenille items was developed for UpWest, such as cosy winter blankets, dog-sweaters and mittens, which are being launched online in the US this month.

Avery Dennison embarked on the project because consumers today are unsure what to do with garments at the end of life because brands lack an easy-on garment way of educating them.

It noted that currently many consumers removed the physical care label while brands underused it – increasing the risk of the garment ending up in landfill rather than being resold, upcycled or recycled.

In contrast, Avery Dennison’s new Digital Care Label helps advance the circular economy as recyclers and upcyclers can be confident of composition and resellers will be able to check authenticity.

Clothing manufacturers already using digital labels include Mantis World which last year introduced QR codes on the inside care labels of its garments, providing customers with information about each product’s environmental impact.

Michael Hu, director for digital solutions at Avery Dennison RBIS, said that “digital triggers” such as QR codes provided “a huge opportunity” for the industry including garment decorators.

“Having permanent digital triggers on garments provides a great opportunity for brands to engage with consumers naturally. Digital triggers can provide a way to start up conversations with the consumer on important topics including sustainability, circularity, how to recycle, or style a product, and where to send it back to.

“Furthermore this new space has the ability to open the window for more insights around consumers and products.

“Innovative brands are becoming increasingly experimental. For those that figure out how to deliver engaging experiences and continue that consumer touchpoint are going to be the ones that are the most successful, with the greatest brand equity.”

The initiative was developed to help reduce emissions and waste in the clothing industry, where fewer than one per cent of garments are recycled and the average person in the UK throws out 3.1kg of textiles every year.

According to Sustain Your Style, an average of 23kg of greenhouse gases are produced per kilogram of fabric produced and, according to the Project Fibersort report, around 4,700 kilo tonnes of post-consumer textile (PCT) waste is generated every year in north-west Europe alone.