H&M collects your old clothes to make new jeans

© H&M

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.

h&m-is-collecting-your-old-clothes-to-make-new-jeans© H&M

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.

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