H&M collects your old clothes to make new jeans
H&M is now a global leader in selling fast (and disposable) fashion to the masses. The company, headquartered in Sweden, started as a small store for women's fashions in 1947 and has grown to a behemoth with stores in most major mega-cities, including in Asia and South America.
H&M believes in what is calls 'conscious actions' toward sustainability. Last year it donated 3.5 million garments to charitable causes; it used recycled polyester from 9.5 million PET bottles in garments; and it is the world's biggest user of organic cotton. Over 15% of H&M's cotton comes from 'sustainable' sources – 10.8% of that from organic cotton fields. That makes it the world's largest user of organic cotton. It also permanently banned the use of angora wool in its products last year.
There's still plenty of criticize at H&M, because fast fashion is not inherently sustainable. On the other hand, it's not the company's 'fault' that Americans buy 60 garments and 8 pairs of shoes each year – our fashion consumption in the U.S. is the world's highest.
H&M is trying to explore different methods to make its processes and its products less harmful and damaging. The company started a program of in-store fashion recycling: customers can bring in H&M brand or other brands of clothing and drop them off. In total the company has collected over 5,000 metric tons of used clothes.
Some it H&M re-sold or gave to charity, some it downcycled to rags or other textile uses. And some of it was made into new jeans.
This spring H&M launched five new denim items that are made with at least 20% recycled cotton and 28% recycled polyester (over 3 PET bottles).
For the future, H&M plans more denim items and more garments that are part of its 'Conscious Collection'. The company admits closed-loop clothing manufacture has a ways to go - the technology that will allow the use of more than 20% recycled cotton in a new denim product is still in its infancy.
Check out the rest of H&M's Conscious Collection here.