Collecting, sorting, reusing and recycling prolongs the life of textile products, materials and fibres, and keeps resources in use.
Collect, recirculate and recycle
Why is collecting, sorting, reusing and recycling important?
Too much clothing ends up in landfill and much of is still wearable or reusable. This needs to change. Instead of treating our used garments as waste, we should value them as precious resources to be collected, sorted and reused before finally being recycled into new garments, helping to create a circular fashion system.
Successfully transitioning to a circular model also requires a system shift that will take time. For decades our industry has operated in a linear way, which means that current policy, legislation and infrastructure are not set up for a circular world.
What are we doing at H&M Group?
Across the H&M Group we are working to increase the rate of textile collection and reuse, improve sorting and recycling technology, as well as working with policy makers to enable the transition to a circular industry.
We are also increasing the amount of recycled fibres used in our products. Find out more about how we work with materials here.
We were one of the first brands to launch a garment collecting programme in 2013 and since then we have received over 155,000 tonnes of textiles.1 Customers can drop off their unwanted items in our stores and our partners sort them according to their condition, following criteria set out in the EU waste hierarchy, which prioritises reuse before recycling:
- Reuse – garments that can be worn again are sold as second-hand clothes.
- Repurpose & recycle – old clothes and textiles that cannot be resold are repurposed or recycled into new products and fibres.
- Energy recovery – items that do not fit into the above categories are disposed of in other ways prioritising incineration for energy production.
Across the industry, around 60% of collected textiles are resold and 35% repurposed or recycled. The remaining 5% are disposed of prioritising incineration to recovery energy.2 At the H&M Group, we are categorically against clothing becoming waste and it goes against our work to create a more circular fashion industry.
In early 2023, we launched Looper Textile Co., a joint venture with our garment collecting partner, Remondis. The company collects used and unwanted textiles from our stores and other sources then sorts the items according to the EU waste hierarchy, for example for resale and recycling. Initially the company will operate in Europe.
Recycling cotton waste – Renewcell
H&M Group Ventures supported Renewcell to develop a regenerated cellulosic fibre made from recycled cotton waste from several sources, including our in store garment collection programme. In 2021, we used Circulose® in several styles across our brands and collections.
Recycling cotton waste – Infinited Fiber Company
Infinited Fiber Company makes regenerated cellulosic fibre from cotton waste. Infinna™ was first used by Weekday. H&M Group Ventures has invested in the company to help them move closer to commercial volumes.
ARKET used post-consumer denim for a collection of unique pieces. Reclaimed garments were cut into patches and sewn together to form large sheets of irregular fabric shapes, which were used instead of fabric rolls.
Collecting and recycling in our supply chain
Producing garments and textiles generates fabric offcuts and scraps that are generally considered waste today. We have created guidelines to help our suppliers recover and reuse these valuable materials and in 2022 about 1.4 kilotonnes of offcuts and scraps were collected from our garment production factories and sent to recyclers to be made into new materials. 3
To transition to a circular fashion industry, we need to increase the rate of textile collection and sorting, develop automatic sorting technology and scale up local textile to textile recycling technology. To make this happen, we need a shift in policy. We have released a position paper on waste as a resource calling for a secondary raw materials market for textiles within the European Union (EU). We believe this can be achieved by:
- Establishing an EU-wide harmonised Extended Producer Responsibility to enable efficient collecting, sorting and recycling across the EU.
- Defining post-consumer textiles as resources.
- Making free movement of textile resources easier globally and within the EU.
- Increasing recycling capacity and standardising sorting, collecting and recycling infrastructure across the EU.
Transparency & traceability
Developing a transparent circular fashion industry with full traceability is a priority for H&M Group. We work with our partners to ensure that our garment collection programme does not add to the problem of clothing waste in the global south. We have strict guidelines in place on sorting, waste disposal and recycling processes.
Useful definitions from Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Repair: Operation by which a faulty or broken product or component is returned back to a usable state to fulfil its intended use. For example, sewing a button back on a shirt or mending a rip in a pair of jeans.
Reuse: The repeated use of a product or component for its intended purpose without significant modification. For example, reselling preloved clothing or offering garments through rental.
Remanufacture: Re-engineer products and components to as-new condition with the same, or improved, level of performance as a newly manufactured one. For example, clothing that is made from reclaimed material made from used textiles.
Recycle: Transform a product or component into its basic materials or substances and reprocess them into new materials. For example, recycling cotton clothing into cotton fibres to be used in new garments.
Where to recirculate and recycle your preloved garments and textiles
Did you know that the most valuable clothing is already in your wardrobe? Between 2000 and 2015 clothing production doubled but the number of times an item of clothing was worn before being thrown away fell by over a third (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Circular Business Models, Redefining Growth for a Thriving Fashion Industry, 2021).
Before you leave your pre-loved items at our stores have you thought about having a clothes swap with your friends, repairing or even reselling your garments?
Here are some ideas from our brands over how you can extend the life of your current wardrobe:
- Our friends at Monki have shared lots of ideas on how to customise and hack your jeans.
- Find lots of useful tips on how you can repair and extend the lifespan of your clothing with H&M Take Care.
- We are scaling up several different projects for resale and rental. Find out if they are available in your country here.
Almost all our stores have garment collecting points and accept textiles from any brand in any condition, even holey socks! Here’s a list of what you can send for recirculation and recycling and where:
1 For more information about our garment collection project, please see our Sustainability Disclosure, page 55.
2 Numbers can vary due to seasonal variation.
3 For more information about how what we’re doing to increase the amount of pre-consumer recycling in our supply chain, see our Sustainability Disclosure, page 49.
We publish our Sustainability Disclosure annually. In this document, we set out our goals and the progress we’ve made in the previous year. Find the latest version here. More up to date information can be included on this page.