World Recycle Week: Everybody Wins?

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It’s World Recycle Week, and H&M are raising awareness with a big campaign that gives the fashion-conscious public an opportunity to do their share for the environment.

Growing the materials to make clothes, dyeing and finishing them with chemicals, manufacturing them and finally shipping them around the world consumes a vast amount of resources, putting a tremendous strain on our planet. The fashion industry can be toxic and harmful, but H&M are on a green mission to make us aware of these nasty effects.

H&M is one of the largest fast fashion brands in the world when it comes to sales, but since 2013, it has been collecting old garments, which they then will recycle.

Currently, the Swedish apparel giant has already accumulated 25,000 tonnes of preloved clothes as part of its Garment Collecting program, launched three years ago. H&M can “recycle them and create new textile fibre, and in return you get vouchers to use at H&M. Everybody wins!”

And from 18th – 24th April, H&M is hoping to collect another 1,000 tonnes. They are encouraging its consumers to bring in a normal shopping bag of any old textiles in exchange for two x £5 vouchers: however, the voucher is only redeemable on your next purchase when you spend over £25.


Are Take-back Schemes Worth It?

Eco writer Lucy Siegle wrote for the Guardian that “technical issues with commercial fibre recycling mean that only a small percentage of recycled yarn is used in new garments. Using publicly available figures and average clothing weights, it appears it would take 12 years for H&M to use up 1,000 tons of fashion waste”.

“We are not completely convinced on the usefulness of the take-back scheme,” said Rosie Roberts, Administrator at the Centre of Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion. In October last year, a panel debate discussed take-back schemes, featuring a host of distinguished names in the area of sustainable fashion, including Professor Kate Fletcher of LCF, Worn Again founder Cyndi Rhoads and Project Leader for Sustainability at H&M, Cecilia Brannsten.

From the debate, it was understood that take-back schemes necessitate a strong and effective reuse and recycling infrastructure, systems view and design intention. However, recycling garments is not free. Repairing and reconditioning requires machine energy, water and process chemicals. There is also a lack of openness about how take-backs are used, and the full impact of the process. It is therefore misinterpreted as a marketing idea.

H&M’s week-long #WorldRecycleWeek campaign informs its consumers with a video that the textiles are taken to a processing plant to get sorted, clothing that is in good condition is distributed as second-hand goods. Items too worn and torn to use again get a second life as cleaning cloths, rags and so on. Others are converted into insulating materials, filling for car seats, or they can also be ground into fibre, spun into yarn and woven into new fabrics.

Ninety-nine percent of the garments collected are re-worn, reused or recycled while the last one percent is turned into new energy. Even the dust generated during the grinding process in filtered and turned into new material.

Investing in Social Projects

Any money made from this recycling service is invested in social projects, as well as research and innovation projects that focus on recycling within the textile industry. In 2014, the Swedish retailer partnered with recycling technology company Worn Again and sports and lifestyle company Kerring to solve problems in textile waste, specifically polyester filament and cotton fibres.

The retailer invites you to call into your local H&M in Angel, Camden High Street or Wood Green to ask staff about more details.

See “Recycle, Islington!” for more about sustainability in the borough.

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