H&M Foundation

Breakthrough in closed-loop recycling

It is something like the holy grail of sustainability for researchers and experts engaged in fashion: the search for a process by which textiles made of mixed fibres can be recycled. As long as no such process is ready for the market, apart from inefficient mechanical recycling, only recycling of segregated textiles is possible. Currently, for the great majority of used textiles which are collected, only a downcycling process is viable, in which they are reborn as insulating or filling materials.     

In the autumn of this year H&M Foundation reported an initial breakthrough: their so-called closed-loop apparel-recycling eco-system programme is a research project scheduled for four years, financed by a part of the revenues which H&M earns from the used textiles returned in its stores. Now, in the wake of this programme partnership, the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel, jointly with the Japanese universities of Ehime and Shinshu, has succeeded in finding a hydro-thermal chemical process which makes it possible for the first time to separate and completely recycle cotton and polyester mixtures. The H&M Foundation promises to provide the process to other companies in a licensing scheme – it almost seems as if the search is at an end.

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