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Recycling facilities takes fashion industry one step closer to circularity

Today, 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, 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.

“This is a significant step towards a new fashion industry that operates within the planetary boundaries.”

— Erik Bang, Innovation Lead H&M Foundation

“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, and located at a newly repurposed former textile mill in Hong Kong.

“After successfully developing revolutionary recycling technologies, we have devoted sustained effort to put them into practice.”

Edwin Keh, Chief Executive Officer of HKRITA

“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,” says Edwin Keh, Chief Executive Officer of HKRITA.

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. 

For more information

Erik Bang, Innovation Lead H&M Foundation
erik.bang@hmfoundation.com
+46 72 173 16 22

NOTES TO EDITORS

Technical information

The recycling technology consist of chemical and hydrothermal treatments, to recycle cotton and polyester blends into new fabric and yarns. Today, the polyester can be extracted as fibres, ideal for spinning and making new fabrics. The cotton is extracted as cellulose powder, and can be applied to functional products or regenerated fibres. HKRITA is now focusing their research on improving the quality of the separated fibres and cellulose powders, to develop more sustainable solutions for the industry. The new facility is located at the Novetex Factory in Tai Po Industrial Estate, Hong Kong.

The partnership

The H&M Foundation initiated the partnership with HKRITA in September 2016. It is backed by an estimated 5.8 million euro of funding, with HKRITA conducting the research and work to commercialise the outcomes. The Innovation and Technology Fund of the Hong Kong SAR Government also provides additional substantial funding and support. The total project investment is estimated to around 30 million euros during the four-year collaboration (2016-2020), which makes it one of the biggest and most comprehensive efforts ever for textile recycling. To date, September 3, 2018 the H&M Foundation has donated 3.5 million euro to HKRITA. Learn more.