This week, the nonprofit H&M Foundation and the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) opened two first-of-their-kind textile recycling facilities in Hong Kong, where HKRITA’s breakthrough hydrothermal recycling technology will for the first time be put into practice at scale, and a miniaturized Garment-To-Garment Recycling System is opened for the public. These facilities are the results of a the Foundation’s partnership with HKRITA to accelerate research on textile recycling to speed up the development of a closed loop for textiles.
In September 2017, only one year into the four-year long partnership, HKRITA presented a hydrothermal method for recycling cotton and polyester blends into new fibers; blends are the most common type of textile in the world and remain largely unrecyclable.
A year later marks the opening of a pre-industrial-size facility scaling this technology, to invite fashion brands and stakeholders worldwide to see, test and implement the technology within their own operations. As a nonprofit, the H&M Foundation works to drive change for the global fashion industry; HKRITA will license the results widely to make it available to all and enable a bigger impact.
“This is a significant step towards a new fashion industry that operates within the planetary boundaries,” says Erik Bang, Innovation Lead at the H&M Foundation. “As we scale up and make this technology freely available to the industry, we will reduce the dependence on limited natural resources to dress a growing global population.”
In addition, customers can bring their unwanted clothes, and watch the container-sized Garment-To-Garment Recycling System recycle their garments and make new fashion finds.
“Seeing is believing, and when customers see with their own eyes what a valuable resource garments at end of life can be, they can also believe in recycling and recognize the difference their actions can make,” Bang says.
The Garment-To-Garment Recycling System is the result of a collaboration between HKRITA, the H&M Foundation and Novetex, and located at Hong Kong’s The Mills, a newly repurposed former textile mill.
“After successfully developing revolutionary recycling technologies, we have devoted sustained effort to put them into practice. Our recycling systems represent the industry’s well-applied innovation efforts. These not only revitalise a decades-old major industry, but also do it most sustainably for the benefit of our community and as a responsible global citizen,” says Edwin Keh, Chief Executive Officer of HKRITA.
The H&M Foundation is projected to invest €5.8 million with HKRITA over four years. The investment is made possible through the surplus from the H&M group’s in-store garment collecting programs, which is donated to the H&M Foundation. The H&M Foundation allocates 50 percent of the total surplus to research on textile recycling and the other 50 percent to projects focusing on equality and inclusion of marginalized groups. (…)
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