Recycling Technology Keeps Sustainable Fashion in the Loop

Brian_cottonSwedish retail giant H&M is teaming up with Puma to trial an innovative new textile-to textile recycling technology. Although the technology is still in test mode, it is expected to be ready for commercial use in a couple of years, the companies said.

Both H&M and the luxury brand group Kering, Puma’s parent company, are known for incorporating sustainability into their business commitment and product lines. It’s only natural they’re in pursuit of new ways to build a stronger sustainable identity. The mainframe for this next step could be to turn clothes made from sustainable cotton into collections made from recycled cotton. This would help move the companies’ practices away from the linear economy and toward a perpetual circular economy.

Worn Again, the creator of the technology, is a U.K.-based innovative company founded in 2005 by Cyndi Rhoades. It started out by upcycling textile waste to create new products with a higher quality. Two years later, the company made a shift toward business-to-business consultancy, focusing on limiting waste to zero and manufacturing groundbreaking products.

The tests for this new technology, which will be monitored by H&M and Puma, are built around separating and extracting polyester and cotton from blended fiber clothing. Another task will be to separate dyes and other particles from polyester and cellulose, which has always been a challenge when recycling. The raw materials that are recaptured can then be used to spin new fabric for clothes. This circular process will have an extremely positive effect on bringing down the need for virgin resources and as such reduces carbon emissions, as well as the use of toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers or exhaustion of land for growing crops.

Worn Again isn’t the first to develop a textile-to-textile technology. In 2014, Swedish scientists developed a process to recycle cotton by shredding clothes to pulp and turning the substance into threads of viscose. The company responsible for making the pulp is now preparing its first fabric-recycling factory and teaming up with several entrepreneurs in the textile industry.

In 2012, Dutch fashion designer and sustainable entrepreneur Rien Otto founded his Dutch aWEARness company. It’s built on the principles of the circular economy and supported by the European Commission. In an Eco Innovation program for a specific pilot project, Otto uses 100 percent recyclable polyester-based fabric. The company makes work clothing, corporate wear and fashion.

Otto knows all about the new H&M, Puma and Worn Again collaboration, for in this line of business, companies all learn from their colleagues and support each effort made:

“Happens so, I talked to them the other day about their new blend technology,” Otto said. “They’re really excited about it. Even if the results are confined to the lab environment for now, it will be used for their clothing some day. We need every avenue possible to increase and stimulate the growth of sustainability and recycling in the fashion and textile world. Each attempt is a step forward.”

H&M collected 7,684 tons of used clothing in 2014 via its Garment Collecting initiative, which was launched to reduce textile waste. For more TriplePundit articles on H&M and news about sustainable clothing, click here.

Image credit: Flickr – Brian

Gina Vodegel

Gina Vodegel (1963) is a freelance writer-journalist from Dutch Indo-European descent. She grew up in Maastricht in the Netherlands and moved to Belgium more than a decade ago where she enjoys rural life with a bundle of furry friends (dogs and cats) she rescued herself. She's a contributing editor for Puurzaam Magazine, a quarterly magazine issued by the Gulpener Beerbrewery, located in the south. They're a small family brewery who were the first in the Netherlands to implement sustainable energy in their production process. They won several awards for their beers and were granted the Dutch CSR Award in 2014. Puurzaam Magazine explores theme-wise covering 3BL and kindred topics.