In its endeavor to become truly circular by 2030, H&M has opened a hydrothermal textile recycling plant in Hong Kong. The recycling method involves using heat, water and a blend of biodegradable chemicals to separate cotton and polyester from mixed fabrics. Once the fibers are separated, they can be sorted for reuse in new garments, including jeans.
The technology aims at overcoming the problem of recycling hard-to-recycle textile blends, which are the most widely-used fabrics globally. While the plant will initially be used by H&M only, the retailer will license the technology, so it can be used by other fashion manufacturers.
This method, which H&M calls garment-to-garment recycling, is expected to prevent the potential for chemical pollution finding its way into the environment while minimising carbon emissions and costs.
Alongside the garment-to-garment plant, H&M is showcasing a miniaturised version of the recycling technology at a pop-up H&M store in Hong Kong in a bid to educate customers about the importance of recycling. Customers are being encouraged to bring their unwanted or end-of-life clothing to the temporary store, where they will have the chance to see the technology first-hand.
The belief is when customers see with their own eyes what a valuable resource garments at the end of life can be, they can also believe in recycling and recognise the difference their actions can make.