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Ellen R. Delisio headshot

Food Waste Among Materials Harvested in H&M’s Latest Collection

Food Waste

H&M’s latest clothing line, dubbed the “Conscious Exclusive A/W20 Collection,” takes recycling to a new level with a line of clothing and accessories created from materials, including food waste, that had been destined for the trash bin.

Now, food waste is part of the sustainable textiles conversation

Scheduled to be available online today, the collection includes clothing derived from food waste, as well as fabrics created with wood pulp and recycled fibers. Wine byproducts are the ingredients behind the fast fashion giant’s latest vegan leather shoes.

“For A/W20, we really wanted to be trailblazers – pushing the limits of creativity and sustainable fashion – by focusing on waste,” said H&M creative advisor Ann-Sofie Johansson, in a company statement. “Working with this kind of transformation and being able to speak to our customers through beauty, we hope that waste can be part of the future of sustainable fashion.” 

If waste-based fashion spurs visions of burlap sack dresses and earrings made from egg cartons, fear not: the collection includes evening gowns, a tuxedo, men’s suits and a shirt. Among the fashionable accessories are necklaces, chokers and shoe clips crafted from recycled metals.

One of the models who showcased the new clothing line is Zinnia Kumar, who also is an ecologist and activist. “As consumers, we will no longer need to differentiate between fashionability and sustainability, as they will become one and the same. As an ecologist working in fashion, this fills me with hope,” Kumar said in a company statement.

A supply chain incorporating more responsibly sourced fibers

The collection includes four materials and processes new to H&M’s sustainable fashion arsenal. Among them are Eastman’s Naia Renew yarn, which contains 60 percent certified wood fiber and 40 percent recycled waste plastic.

In addition, hemp-based fibers come from Agraloop, a company that manufactures textile fibers from fibrous food waste. Agraloop’s fibers in particular stands out as it is a 2018 H&M Foundation Global Change Award first-prize winner. The company’s production process also eliminates greenhouse gas emissions normally resulting from fiber production, upcycles wastewater and generates organic fertilizer. 

We aRe SpinDye’s dyed recycled polyester also is part of H&M’s collection. In this process, the recycled material is dyed before becoming fabric. The company says its system uses 75 percent less water and 90 percent fewer chemicals than traditional means. Another process from Made of Air results in sunglasses made from what it says is carbon-negative plastic. 

Also adopted by H&M is a way to pull natural and synthetic fibers from textile waste at various stages of the production process offered by Texloop Recycling. 

An ongoing shift in the fashion sector

This is H&M’s second line featuring sustainable materials. Four years ago the company launched its Conscious Exclusive collection, which includes clothing and accessories made exclusively from recycled materials. 

Numerous other clothing companies also are developing garments from recycled materials. Patagonia famously created a fleece material made from plastic bottles back in 1993 and makes clothing and gear from recycled polyester, down and wool.  Waste2Wear boasts haute couture made from recycled plastic bottles; fabric for a single Couture Light dress from the company’s collection reportedly removes 30 PET bottles from the environment.  The French company Veja also employs recycled plastic bottles to make sneakers.

Plastics and fabrics already have a close relationship. Currently about 60 to 65 percent of the textiles produced worldwide are synthetics, most of which are made of the same material as the one for single-use plastics.

H&M insists it continues to deepen its commitment to sustainability. For the past seven years, the owners of the H&M Group, the Stefan Persson family, has been donating to the H&M Foundation to help the company meet the 2030 deadline of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) drawn up by the United Nations. 

"We take our responsibility to stay within the planetary boundaries very seriously and have an ambitious plan: to become climate positive by 2040 and to only work with sustainably sourced materials by 2030," said Johansson in a recent Forbes article.

Image credit: H&M

Ellen R. Delisio headshot

Ellen R. Delisio is a freelance writer and paraeducator who lives in Middletown, CT.  Over the past 30 years, her writing has focused on life science, sustainability and education issues. Ellen is an avid reader and beach-goer.

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