estimated donation from the H&M Foundation to The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel during 2016-2020.
the year when HKRITA, together with Ehime University in Japan, successfully developed a process to fully separate and recycle cotton and polyester blends into new fibres.
As we all know, the world’s resources aren’t endless. Far from that. To produce fashion for a growing population, the fashion industry needs to use what’s already available, instead of producing new materials. However, one of the biggest challenges for the fashion industry today is to make new garments out of discarded clothes.
Erik Bang, Innovation Lead at H&M Foundation
Today it’s possible to recycle garments made from only one material, such as wool jumpers or cotton trousers. However, most garments today consist of blend textiles, the most common blend being polyester and cotton. Unfortunately, there’s no commercial viable method available for recycling blend textiles. 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 a bold goal to find at least one commercial recycling method for polyester and cotton blends within the four year-long project period.
The method must be scalable, sustainable and licensed free to the whole fashion industry.
Within only a year after the partnership was initiated, HKRITA, together with Ehime University in Japan, successfully developed a hydrothermal (chemical) process to fully separate and recycle cotton and polyester blends into new fibres.
Edwin Keh, Chief Executive Officer, HKRITA
The process uses only heat, water and less than 5% biodegradable green chemical. This method is cost effective and there’s no secondary pollution to the environment which ensures that the life of the recycled material is prolonged in a sustainable way.
Next, the technology will be scaled up and tested further before being made available to the global fashion industry. When finalised, the technology will be licensed widely to ensure broad market access and maximum impact.
The funding is made possible thanks to customers handing in unwanted items to H&M’s garment collecting boxes. The surplus generated each year is donated from H&M 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 additional and substantial funding and support.