H&M puts new life into used garments
So, we all know H&M accepts used clothes at each of its retail stores (and if you didn’t, now you do). But where does that clothing actually go?
We asked Anna Gedda, head of sustainability at H&M that very question during a media event in Paris.
The company uses a “Rewear, Reuse and Recycle” model, meaning the clothing that is collected is either going to be re-worn, reused in fragments or recycled for its fibres.
“If you go in to H&M and drop off your clothes, we then work with I:CO, which are our collaboration partners,” Gedda explains.
The garments are held at each retail store until there is enough to fill an entire truck. When that amount is reached, the used clothing is then shipped to an I:CO sorting facility.
“They sort the clothes based on different criteria — where they’re from, what is the condition,” Gedda explains. “Then about 40 to 60 per cent, the figures depend a little bit, of these clothes are actually in such good condition that they can actually be worn again. That is then sold to second-hand shops and second-hand markets and can be given a new life in that way.”
Gedda says the next portion of pieces, which may not be in good enough condition to be worn in their entirety, are taken apart in segments and used for rags or cleaning cloths.
“And then you have the other part, which I think is the most exciting, and that is where you have clothing that you can’t use any part other than the actual fibres. But the fibres you can then turn and make it into new products again through new fibres,” she says. “Today, we can do this with about 20 per cent of that kind of fibre.”
The fibres, though reusable, are fragile because of the mechanical process involved with breaking them down. For this reason, the recycled fibres must be combined with new fibres to make them strong enough for use in garments. Gedda says the company is putting its technology and innovation to work in the area of relying on less of the new fibres and more of the recycled fibres.
Finally, the fibres that can’t be re-spun are used for stuffing in sofas and car seats, according to Gedda.
“What it means is that all the items that are taken into the system are either reused or given new life,” she says.
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