$1 Million for Ideas

H&M Offers $1 Million For New Recycling Ideas – The king of disposable fashion would like to make disposing less destructive for the planet.

Recycling clothes is hard, thanks to mixed materials used to make them and the poor quality of recycled cotton. That’s why fast fashion retailer H&M is now offering an annual $1 million prize for winners who can come up with better ways to recycle what we wear.

It’s one thing to rip the buttons and zippers out of a pair of pants, but quite another to separate the cotton and polyester in a mixed fabric. That’s the challenge faced by retailers like H&M, which sell clothes so cheap that consumers face little incentive not to treat them as disposable. H&M already offers a garment collection service that distributes used clothing either to be reworn or reused (e.g., jeans turned into a purse or t-shirts used as cleaning cloths). The new yearly prize, administered by H&M’s Conscious Foundation, is aimed at the third option: recycling.

The prize will be distributed between five winners, and those winners will be chosen by public online vote. Anyone can enter, not just established companies. “Ground-breaking, game-changing ideas can come from anywhere,” says H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson, “so the challenge is open to anyone.”


Winners will be flown to Stockholm, Sweden, to participate in an “innovation bootcamp” with the KTH Royal Institute of Technology. The idea is that H&M will work with the winners to bring their ideas into actual use.

H&M is known for its cheap and excellent knock-offs of catwalk collections, so it’s ironic to see the company, the second-largest clothing retailer in the world, trying to lead the industry. “I’m also eager to see how the fashion industry as a whole will embrace the challenge of closing the loop,” says Persson.

Re-wearing, reuse, and recycling are all great ways for a large company like H&M to lessen its environmental impact, but the problem might be with its very business model. An alternative answer is for us to buy fewer, better-made clothes, and wear them for longer. The 10-year hoodie is one example of sustainable fashion, but the shift needs to come from consumers. H&M can’t afford to sell fewer clothes, so it has to dress up recycling as a valid option. To really change the world of fashion, then, you and I have to stop buying so much.


Recycling Textiles


Recycle your clothing – keep it out of the landfill.

More apparel retailers appear to be ramping up their sustainability efforts in a way that will get consumers involved, with initiatives such as clothing recycling becoming increasingly popular.  Jeans giant Levi Strauss & Co last week expanded its clothing recycling initiative to all stores in the US, as part of ongoing efforts to reduce the amount of textiles that end up in landfill.  By extending the program, Levi’s says it will be easier for consumers to recycle clothing and shoes, and create an infrastructure that supports a circular economy by 2020.

And following hot on Levi’s heels is Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), which is set to launch its Fashion Recycling Week on 31 August in the UK as part of the brand’s latest attempt to make the industry a little more green.  Working with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion, the brand has challenged students to use items donated to H&M’s clothing collection programme to make recycled pieces that will be seen in eight stores throughout the UK.

This is just one of many initiatives implemented by the Swedish retailer, which launched its Garment Collecting programme at the beginning of 2013, with the aim of limiting the amount of textiles that end up in landfill.  And as part of its work to close the loop in its clothing supply chain, the retailer launched a denim collection made from recycled textile fibres earlier this year.

The initiatives by H&M and Levi are just two examples of clothing retailers working to close the loop in the clothing supply chain, with more and more brands launching products that use recycled fibres, and encouraging consumers to swap their old clothes.

But while progress is being made, it seems there is still a way to go. According to JustMeans.com, the US in particular is not doing very well on the recycling front with only 15% – or 10.5m tonnes – of clothes, shoes and accessories recycled each year.

So while the message appears to be spreading, it is still just a ripple, and it is up to the big brands to ensure that message is more of a wave. Innovation into more sustainable clothing and encouraging recycling remain key.

Source: Just Style 

Recycled & Re-Spun


Rain Jacket by Worn Again – Constructed from recycled fibers and re-spun yarns

Millions of tons of material are made each year but the truth is that people are throwing away clothes. Trends change rapidly and valuable material is tossed into landfills.  A few companies are working to reverse this wasteful pattern.  Kering (owners of Puma) and H&M recently announced they will be working with the textile up-cycling company Worn Again. The goal is to meet the growing demand for cotton and polyester production worldwide by 
recycling garments.


Rain Jacket by Worn Again – Constructed from recycled fibers and re-spun yarns

Worn Again separates and extracts the materials from used clothing so that it can be re-spun into new yarns.  This conversion back to yarn, the basic twisted fibers present in all fabrics, solves the problem of separating the materials of blended fiber clothes and removing dyes from polyester 
and cellulose.


Messenger Bag by Worn Again

In other words, a T-shirt’s previously linear lifespan can now become circular. What was once worn, thrown away and left in landfills is now seen as reusable, proving fashion’s ability to become sustainable. Anna Gedda, the head of sustainability at H&M, said she believes this will change the way fashion is created and massively reduce the need for extracting virgin resources from our planet.


Messenger Bag by Worn Again

Worn Again’s technology is still in development and the two companies only plan to adopt the technology once it is deemed commercially viable – it is about the bottom-line after all. Just announcing the technology and showing its intentions has sparked conversation about textile waste. Even if it cannot become commercially viable within the H&M or Kering business models, other companies are ready to introduce textile recycling technology.

Sources:  The Crimson White, Worn Again