estimated donation from the H&M Foundation to HKRITA during 2016-2020.
the year when a process to fully separate and recycle cotton and polyester blends was discovered.
the year when recycling facilities opened in Hong Kong – taking the fashion industry one step closer to circularity.
The world population is growing, and with that increases the demand for new garments. However, since natural resources, such as cotton and wool, are limited – recycling is the key to break the dependence.
It’s possible to recycle garments made of only one material, such as wool jumpers or cotton trousers. However, most garments consist of blend textiles, the most common blend being polyester and cotton. Unfortunately, there’s no commercial viable method available for recycling these blends on a big scale. This needs to change and it must change fast.
To speed up this process, we partnered with The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) in 2016, with an ambitious goal to find at least one commercial method to recycle cotton and polyester blends within the four year-long project period.
Only one year into the partnership, HKRITA and the H&M Foundation presented a breakthrough in the research, when a hydrothermal process was discovered that could fully separate and recycle cotton and polyester blends into new fibres and cellulose powder.
In 2018, HKRITA and H&M Foundation opened two first of its kind recycling facilities in Hong Kong:
Erik Bang, Innovation Lead H&M Foundation
As a non-profit, the H&M Foundation works to drive positive change for the global fashion industry. Therefore, HKRITA will license the results widely to reach the biggest impact possible. The purpose of the pre-industrial recycling facility is to invite fashion brands and stakeholders worldwide to see, test and implement this technology within their own operations.
The funding is made possible thanks to customers handing in unwanted items to H&M group’s garment collecting program. The surplus generated each year is donated by H&M group to H&M Foundation. Half of this donation is used for research on textile recycling, and half is used for projects focusing on equality.
The Innovation and Technology Fund of the Hong Kong SAR Government also provides substantial funding and support. The total project investment is estimated to around 30 million euro during the four-year collaboration, which makes it one of the biggest and most comprehensive efforts ever for textile recycling.