H&M Sustainability Case Study

Over one million tonnes of UK textiles go to landfills annually but we running out of landfill space and it is a waste.

One high street label has become the first fashion company to institute a global garment collecting initiative: H&M encourages its customers to see their old garments as a resource.

It has set up a collection scheme for customers to bring unwanted clothes to its stores across all 53 of its markets. The clothes can be any brand and in any condition. In just over a year, H&M has collected over 3,500 tonnes of old clothes – enough fabric to make 15m T-shirts.

The collected clothes are separated in three groups. The first group – rewear – is for clothing that can be worn again, sold second-hand.

The "reuse" group is textiles that are no longer suitable to wear but can be up-cycled into other products.

And, finally, the "recycle" group is for textiles that cannot be reused, but can be turned into textile fibres or used to manufacture different products.

By collecting used garments, H&M contributes to reducing textile waste and is turning old fibres into new yarn. Recycled textiles decrease the use of raw materials – like water and oil – which are needed to produce fibres such as cotton and polyester. Ideally the company would like to create new clothes from the collected garments.

For each kilogramme of clothes the company collects, €0.02 (£0.016) is also donated to a local charity, chosen by H&M in each of its markets. In addition, revenue from the garment collection programme will be invested in textil recycling technology and other social projects.

Nicolette Fox is part of the wordworks network

The Guardian Sustainable Business Sustainability Case Studies contain articles on all the initiatives that met the criteria for the GSB Awards.

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