H&M Foundation, the Swedish retailerâ€™s nonprofit arm which has committed to collecting used clothes in stores in an effort to keep them out of landfills and give them a second life has teamed up with the HongKong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) to develop the required technologies to recycle blended textiles into new fabrics and yarns.
The four-year partnership aims to create a commercially viable and scalable technology that can be licensed widely to ensure broad market access and maximum impact.
While itâ€™s currently possible to mechanically recycle single fiber fabrics such as denim jeans and wool sweaters, a lot of garments are made from a blend of different fibers. For instance, a pair of womenâ€™s jeans might be made from a blend comprising 94 percent cotton, 5 percent polyester and 1 percent elastane, to improve fit, style and comfort. When these garments reach the end of their lives, they usually end up discarded in landfills or downcycled into low-value applications like insulation or carpeting.
This is one of the biggest and most comprehensive efforts ever for textile recycling. The overall aim for them as a foundation is to protect the planetary boundaries and work to ensure living conditions. They want to develop at least one ready technology to recycle clothes made from textile blends into new clothes, said Erik Bang, project manager at H&M Foundation. This would be a major breakthrough in the journey towards a closed loop for textiles in the fashion industry.
Edwin Keh, chief executive officer of HKRITA, said that they look forward to providing practical solutions to a pressing local and global challenge.
H&M Foundation is contributing 5.8 million euros ($6.5 million) to HKRITA to develop a series of research projects, while the Innovation and Technology Fund of the Hong Kong SAR Government will provide additional funding and support.
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