H&M Foundation makes breakthrough in recycling garments

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A project involving the H&M Foundation has had a technological breakthrough, finding a method to recycle blended textiles into new fabrics and yarns. Using a hydro-thermal (chemical) process, there is no loss of quality for materials.

Figure: Inside of an H&M store.
Figure: Inside of an H&M store.

HKRITA with an estimated funding of 5.8 million euros from the H&M Foundation made the innovation, which will be licensed widely to ensure broad market access and maximum impact.

Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA), CEO Edwin Keh said, “This is a major breakthrough in the pursuit of a fashion industry operating within the planetary boundaries. By being able to upcycle used textiles into new high-value textiles, we no longer need to solely rely on virgin materials to dress a growing world population”, he added.

“The fashion industry is using more resources than the planet allows”, said the Swedish retail giant H&M, the largest buyer of the Bangladesh’s garment sector.“The technology is a major breakthrough in the journey towards a closed loop for textiles. Fashion is far too precious to end up in landfills”, H&M said in a statement.

Recycling clothes will help reduce the amount of natural resources needed to produce new garments. As much as 95 percent of the clothes thrown away could have been re-worn or recycled, according to H&M.

In 2013, the Swedish retail giant started collecting unwanted garments, irrespective of the brand or condition, at its store across the globe. Since the initiative was launched, H&M has gathered more than 32,000 tones of garments, which is more fabric than in 100 million t-shirts.

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