Circular Fashion at Depop

By Depop
14 Nov 2022


At Depop our aim is to change the way we shop, by keeping clothes that already exist passing from person to person. We are taking steps to promote a more circular fashion industry and bring circular fashion to more people.
However we recognise that brands, retailers, resale platforms do not necessarily mean the same thing when they use the word ‘circular’, and this can be confusing for our users. That’s why we decided to clarify what we mean by circular fashion and clearly spell out how it applies to items sold on Depop.
On this page, we outline our approach to circular fashion, and set out the criteria to define what we mean when we refer to items as ‘circular’ on Depop and in our communications. The criteria has been developed following a review of current disclosure and practices in the industry, a consultation with external experts, and is in alignment with The Ellen MacArthur Foundation's[1] vision of a circular economy for fashion.

What do we mean by circular fashion?

A circular system is based on three principles: designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.[2]
For fashion, it means keeping items in use for longer, ensuring they are made to be made again, and making them from safe and recycled or renewable inputs.[3]
Circularity is just one of the elements required to make the fashion industry more sustainable, and focuses on optimising the use of existing or renewable resources. At Depop, we have a sustainability plan, which guides the holistic actions we take to be kinder to both people and the planet. It includes, but is not limited to, circularity.

How does Depop help make fashion more circular?

We help to keep clothing in use for longer - making it easier for our community to extend the life of their clothes and to find alternatives to buying brand new items. At Depop, we believe that items that are already produced and in the system should be given a chance to be owned again, repurposed and worn - preventing them from being disposed of prematurely.

Circular fashion at Depop

The majority of items sold on Depop are secondhand[4]. Whilst brand new items are also sold on Depop via our sellers or our brand partners, volumes are considerably lower. As a marketplace, we have greater ability to make fashion circular by facilitating the sale of items that have already been produced, keeping them in use for longer. In practice, this means that most items that Depop refers to as ‘circular’ will be secondhand.
As we establish Depop’s circularity criteria, we have to consider the current limitations of the linear fashion system that we are operating in. Although progress towards more circularity is undeniable, waste continues to occur throughout the fashion value chain. At Depop, we believe that extending the lifespan of existing garments is crucial in the fight against overproduction, by contributing to displace the need for new resource-intensive production. Recent research showed that 9 in 10 purchases made on Depop prevent the purchase of a brand-new item elsewhere[5]. In this context, and for now, we therefore consider that promoting the resale of brand new unsold conventional fashion that would otherwise be destined for disposal as a circular practice.
The criteria outlined below are meant as a starting point and will evolve over time as circular practices are widely and systematically adopted in the industry and waste is designed out.
Which items can be referred to as ‘circular’ on Depop?
  • Secondhand: Any pre-owned or secondhand items. This refers to any item that has been owned by or in the possession of an individual (whether worn or unworn, with or without tags).
  • Reworked: Repaired, refurbished items or upcycled items created from existing products or components (such as from secondhand garments or discarded materials)
  • Destined for waste: Brand new unused items that are otherwise destined for disposal (e.g landfilled, incinerated, recycled), specifically:
    • Overstock - excess inventory not retailing in any public sales channels
    • Faulty or ‘imperfect’ inventory (e.g. unintentionally damaged in the production or distribution process)
    • Unsellable returns
  • Made as circular: Brand new items made from a substantial proportion of recycled, renewable or regeneratively grown materials, in line with the following certifications and thresholds:
    • Recycled materials certified by GRS, RCS or SCS. Brands must certify that materials with recycled content constitute at least 50% of the overall inputs for the item.
      • Recycled Cotton: Blended textiles using recycled cotton must contain at least 50% recycled cotton in the blend. Recycled cotton made from pre-consumer and post-consumer waste are both acceptable.
      • Recycled Polyester: Blended textiles using recycled polyester must contain at least 50% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET) in the blend from post-consumer waste.
    • Regeneratively grown natural fibres such as regenerative cotton, certified by Regenerative Organic Certified or REEL Regenerative Code. The overall inputs for the item must contain at least 50% certified materials.
    • Cradle to Cradle Certified
    Depop has a preference for garments that a) are mono-material, and b) have disassemblable designs
Glossary of terms

Glossary of terms

The glossary was developed through consultation of external definitions from reputable sources and internal sources for Depop specific terms
Brand-new item: Newly manufactured item that has never been owned by / in the possession of an individual.
Circular: In fashion, circular means keeping items in use for longer, ensuring they are made to be made again, and making them from safe and recycled or renewable inputs At Depop, circular refers to items that are secondhand (pre-owned or second hand items with or without tags); reworked (repaired, refurbished items or upcycled items); destined for waste (new unused items that are otherwise destined for disposal); or made as circular (new items made from a substantial proportion of recycled, renewable or regenerative materials).
Customised: Item that has been changed, altered or made according to the buyer’s needs or individual specifications.
Disassemblable design: Material and garment assembly choices that enable efficient disassembly for reuse and remodel into new products.
Faulty or imperfect: Newly manufactured item that has defects, is flawed or has been damaged in the production or distribution process (e.g ex-display) to the extent that its normal function, usefulness or value is impaired, and therefore destined to be disposed of. Flaws or defects may include scuffs, loose threads, missing buttons or light wear.
Mono-material: A product that is composed of a single type of material or a product with components that each are made of a single type of material and that can be split apart.
Pre-consumer waste: Waste generated before a product has reached its target user.
Post-consumer waste: Waste generated after a product has reached its target user.
Pre-owned / secondhand item: Item that has been owned by or in the possession of an individual. (whether worn or not, with or without tag).
Public sales channels: Brands’ direct retail & e-commerce channels, third-party marketplaces, outlets (online & offline). Exclude wholesalers, charity shops, as well as brands’ friends & family and sample sales.
Recycled material: Material that would have been disposed of as waste but is instead reprocessed by means of a manufacturing process and made into a final product or into a component for incorporation into a product.
Refurbished or repaired: Worn, damaged or broken item that has been restored to a usable state and is now wearable. This may include techniques such as darning, patching, reinforcing seams and panels with new material, or replacing missing or faulty components such as buttons, zips or soles. Note that some brands use the terms ‘refurbished’ and ‘repaired’ interchangeably.
Regeneratively grown: Regenerative production provides food and materials in ways that support positive outcomes for nature, which include but are not limited to: healthy and stable soils, improved local biodiversity, improved air and water quality.
Renewable material: Materials that are continually replenished at a rate equal to or greater than the rate of depletion. Examples include: hemp, maize, wood, wool, leather, agricultural by-products, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and sea salt.
Unsellable return: Returned item that is no longer sellable through a brand or retailer’s usual sales channels in its current state, and would otherwise be disposed of. This might be because of the item’s condition or the cost associated with its reprocessing.
Upcycled: Item reworked by repurposing discarded and/or existing materials or garments with the intention to enhance the item’s value or purpose. New items that are customised are not considered upcycled. See FAQs for rationale.
Waste garments, materials and fabrics: Garments, fabrics or materials that are discarded and no longer used, typically resulting in landfill, incineration, or leakage into the environment. This includes pre-consumer waste such as leftover fabric or offcuts generated throughout the design and manufacturing processes, and post-consumer waste. In a circular economy, products, materials and components never become waste.


Why does Depop allow fast fashion items to be referred to as ‘circular’?
We only refer to pre-owned/ secondhand fast fashion items as ‘circular’. By selling these items on Depop, we extend their lifespan and reduce their impact by preventing them from ending up incinerated or landfilled. Signalling those items as ‘circular’ also contributes to validate more positive behaviours among fast fashion buyers on the primary market, nudging them into thinking secondhand and Depop before brand new.
Is handmade the same as ‘circular’?
No. Whilst handmade items are often made by independent designers - which Depop supports - they are not guaranteed to be made using safe, renewable or recycled materials and design principles that ensure the product can be remade or recycled at the end of its use phase. To be referred to as circular, a handmade item has to meet at least one of the criteria specified above.
What's the difference between upcycled and customised?
Upcycling an item involves using waste or existing materials to increase the value and purpose of the original item or make it more useful. Customising an item is related to altering either new or secondhand items according to an individual’s needs. Unless customised items are made with waste materials or are secondhand, they should not be referred to as ‘circular’.
[1] The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is a leading not-for-profit organisation working to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.
[2] Ellen MacArthur Foundation, The Circular Economy in Detail
[3] Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Vision of a circular economy for fashion
[4] 72% of items sold (with a condition listed by the seller) on Depop in 2021 were in used condition
[5] Based on a survey of 5,531 Depop users across three markets (UK, USA, Australia) conducted in March 2022. Full methodology can be found here