The H&M Foundation and the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) have jointly set up two first of its kind textile recycling facilities in Hong Kong. The award-winning hydrothermal recycling technology is for the first time put to practice at scale. a miniaturised Garment-To-Garment Recycling System has also opened for the public.
These facilities are the results of an innovative partnership with HKRITA to accelerate research on textile recycling, to speed up the development of a closed loop for textiles, with the purpose to safeguard the planet and the living conditions.
In September 2017, only one year into the four-year long partnership between HKRITA and non-profit H&M Foundation, HKRITA presented a technological breakthrough with a hydrothermal method for recycling cotton and polyester blends into new fibres. Blends are the most common, yet unrecyclable, type of textile in the world.
One year later, September 3, 2018, a new pre-industrial size facility scaling this technology has been opened.
The purpose of the facility is to invite fashion brands and stakeholders worldwide to see, test and implement this technology within their own operations. As a non-profit, the H&M Foundation works to drive change for the global fashion industry, which is why 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. 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,” says Erik Bang, innovation lead, H&M Foundation.
In addition, a miniaturised Garment-To-Garment Recycling System and retail shop selling the recycled garments also opened. Customers can bring their unwanted clothes, and watch the container-sized 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 recognise the difference their actions can make,” says Bang.
The Garment-To-Garment Recycling System is the result of a collaboration between HKRITA, the H&M Foundation and Novetex, with the support of the Mills and located at the newly repurposed former textile mill The Mills in Hong Kong.
“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 euro with HKRITA over four years. The investment is made possible through the surplus from the H&M group’s in-store garment collecting programmes, which is donated to the H&M Foundation. The H&M Foundation allocates 50 per cent of the total surplus to research on textile recycling and the other 50 per cent to projects focusing on equality and inclusion of marginalised groups. (SV)