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H&M's Innovation in Recycling Textile Blends

H&M's Innovation in Recycling Textile Blends

H&M’s innovation in recycling textile blends

In recent years, more and more clothing has been made up of blends of fibres, which can make the garments more comfortable to wear, but it also makes them harder to recycle. This is why textiles often can’t be recycled properly, as there is no way of separating, sorting, and recycling different materials such as cotton and polyester blends.

But high street retailer H&M has teamed up with The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel to develop a new method for separating and recycling polyester and cotton blends, and turning them into new fabrics and yarns.

The project

In 2016, the H&M Foundation and the Institute established the Closed-Loop Apparel Recycling Eco-System Program which aimed to develop technology that would allow them to recycle garments made from textile blends. The project is set to run until 2020 and a lot of progress has been made with one process in particular. The institute has successfully developed a chemical process to separate and recycle cotton and polyester blends so that new fibres can be made. With the help of Ehime University and Shinshu University in Japan, they are ready to scale up the technology so it can be used commercially by the global fashion industry.

Textile

Why is the technology such a breakthrough?

The ability to reuse textiles means that there is much less reliance on raw materials which are dwindling in the face of a growing global population.

How does the process work?

The process only uses heat, biodegradable green chemicals, and water to separate cotton and polyester from other fibres. The material is reusable and there is no loss of quality which means that energy, raw materials, and money are saved.

How is it funded?

The funding for the project comes from the unwanted garments that customers give back to H&M for recycling. H&M invest the proceeds into textile recycling research and global equality projects.

The H&M Foundation

As well as investing in innovative recycling methods, H&M do plenty of good in other areas.

Unwanted Garments

Education

The company believes that good education is the key to improving people’s lives and helping people reach their full potential. It also boosts economic growth and the prosperity of communities. H&M projects reach 16 countries globally and have changed the lives of 173,000 people. They work with Save the Children and UNICEF in Bangladesh, Indonesia, China, and Romania to offer children the chance of an education.

Clean water

The company supports global access to clean water for everyone. They work with WaterAid to support local projects that work to provide people with sanitation. Access to clean water means that people don’t have to walk miles just for water and less children die in infancy from diseases contracted from dirty water. Their project with Water Aid has so far provided clean water for 250,000 children and has provided many people with education about good hygiene practices.

Equality

Where there is equality, there are sustainable economies and everyone in society benefits. The company are particularly focusing on equality for women. While there has been considerable success, inequality still exists, especially with regard to access to healthcare and education. They work with other international and local organisations on projects that promote inclusion and equal opportunities.

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