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H&M Foundation Unveils New Apparel Recycling Concept to Advance Circularity

Creating a more circular economy is one of the H&M Foundation’s goals—and the non-profit foundation is helping industry leaders revamp textile recycling and engage consumers in more responsible clothing consumption with its latest apparel recycling development.

Last week, H&M Foundation and The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) collaborated to showcase a new Closed-Loop Apparel Recycling Eco-System at the DesignInspire 2017 Exhibition in Hong Kong.

The system, which involves various circular concepts, including global garment collecting programs and innovative textile waste management methods, is intended to foster a more sustainable fashion sector, where clothes don’t contribute to global pollution.


The project is currently investigating more than one ready technology to recycle garments made from blended textiles into new fibers. To date, the project has already established a biological process and a chemical process to fully separate and recycle cotton and polyester textile blends. Recovered polyester material from the process may be reused directly for new garments—without negative environmental impacts.

[Read more on apparel circularity:  The Industry Has the Circularity Concept All Wrong—And What Companies Can Do to Get It Right]

H&M Foundation and HKRITA said the technology could be a breakthrough in closed loop textile efforts—and once tested and finalized, potentially be licensed widely throughout HKRITA and international markets to support a more sustainable fashion future.

In September 2016, H&M Foundation initiated a four-year partnership project with HKRITA on the Global Garment Collecting Program. H&M Foundation’s contribution of 5.8 million euros ($6,843,884) and additional financial support from Hong Kong SAR Government’s Innovative and Technology Fund will help ignite future research on apparel circularity.

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The new eco-system comes on the heels of other industry circularity efforts.

In November, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Stella McCartney debuted a new circular roadmap for the apparel industry, which critiqued the industry’s current fast fashion system and provided a new sustainability roadmap for brands, designers and companies.

The roadmap aims to clean up apparel supply chains, by phasing out substances of concern and microfiber release, transforming the way apparel is designed, sold and used to minimize waste disposal, radically improving recycling through a more eco-conscious design process and making effective use of resources while moving to renewable inputs. Additionally, the roadmap also stresses the importance of consumer involvement—and encourages industry members to collaborate on clothing take back programs and apparel recycling to reduce fashion’s carbon footprint.