This week Swedish fashion retailer H&M have launched their own Recycling Week and is attempting to collect 1,000 tonnes of old clothing from customers across its 3,600 stores worldwide.
H&M launched this successful Recycling Week campaign in 2013 and it has continued to expand each year. The campaign is a global garment collection initiative so participating customers can exchange a bag of their unwanted clothing for a 30% discount in-store. The donated clothing doesn’t even have to be old H&M garments, but rather any textiles you need to get rid of – even odd socks, towels and used bedding!
After the unwanted clothing is collected in-store, it is then shipped to one of seven sorting plants worldwide. Here, they are sorted into three streams which will see them either sold and re-worn as second-hand items, re-used as cloths or upholstery, or recycled to become new fabric and potentially new items. Collected clothes from across the UK’s H&M stores are shipped to Germany and sorted by the companies partner I:Collect at its Wolfen textile recycling plant. I:Collect, which is part of the SOEX Group, says that around 30% of collected items are able to be recycled.
Critics of the campaign are disgruntled with H&M’s ‘bribery’ of their customers participating in the initiative, as they’re offing discounts and vouchers for their own store. Many are saying they’re using their awareness of carbon footprint and sustainability to benefit themselves, a tactic known as ‘greenwashing’.
Greenwashing is a creative way to appease the guilt of increasingly informed shoppers. Andrew Morgan, director of The True Cost, a new documentary about the environmental and social impact of fashion, told The Telegraph:
“It’s marketing that confuses well-intentioned people into believing there is no harm”.
Last week H&M released a 30-page eco report which states that 31% of cotton used by H&M brands is now sustainably sourced and a 78% rise in global energy use from renewable sources.
They’ve also set the ambitious goal of becoming “100% circular” which means they’ll commit to using only recycled or sustainably sourced materials in the future. The focus of this Recycle Week campaign is a movement to ‘close the loop’ of garment production, and to use no longer wanted textiles as a resource for new products instead. The retailer has already achieved this by producing their ‘Close The Loop’ denim collection. This is where items in the collection were made of up to 20% recycled cotton from collected clothes and 80% organic cotton. But it’s a lot more complicated than that.
For example, take the recycling week campaign. It’s impossible to recycle blended materials, so that’s all of those cotton-poly-elastane-wool-acrylic- pieces out. Fibres in fabrics that are recyclable, like cotton, are degraded by wear, so any garment using recycled fibres require the addition of “virgin” material. None of the items H&M produced last year were 100% recycled. H&M’s head of sustainability Anna Gedda said of the global initiative:
“World Recycle Week is about changing people’s behaviour when it comes to caring for their clothes. We still have more to do, but already today we make so-called closed-loop products from recycled denim fabric from the garments you hand in.”
All efforts to change our behaviour and the way we think about what we buy and what we throw away instead of recycling are to be encouraged and events held during recycling week are about raising awareness and changing these patterns of behaviour. Clothes swap events and vintage and retro fairs are becoming more popular as consumers realise that there may be life in their unwanted garments once they have finished with them. I’m off to dig out my flares and platforms and see who wants them!
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