New Facilities For Textile Blend Recycling Takes Fashion Industry One Step Closer To Circularity

The H&M Foundation and The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) open two first of its kind textile recycling facilities in Hong Kong. The award-winning hydrothermal recycling technology is for the first time put into practice at scale. In addition, a miniaturized Garment-To-Garment Recycling System is 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 our 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 was opened at a ceremony joined by the Hon Mrs Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-Ngor, The Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), and Mr Nicholas W Yang, Secretary for Innovation and Technology of the HKSAR. 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.

Erik Bang, Innovation Lead H&M Foundation said

“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 miniaturized Garment-To-Garment Recycling System and retail shop selling the recycled garments 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 recognize the difference their actions can make,” says Erik 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.

Edwin Keh, Chief Executive Officer of HKRITA said:

“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,”

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 programs, which is donated to the H&M Foundation. The H&M Foundation allocates 50% of the total surplus to research on textile recycling and the other 50% to projects focusing on equality and inclusion of marginalized groups.

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