In order to address waste in the fashion industry, Hennes & Mauritz AB is expanding into the textile-sorting industry.
In order to prolong the life of about 40 million garments by 2023, the Swedish retailer formed a joint venture with the recycling business Remondis.
The company, Looper Textile Co., will gather used and unwanted clothing and resell it to recycling businesses and secondhand clothing retailers.
“We are taking waste that hasn’t been sorted and turning it into something useful, said Emily Bolon, CEO of Looper Textile, in a phone interview.
In addition to the H&M in-store collection program, which has been running since 2013, Looper Textile will also collect clothing from municipal containers located throughout Europe. According to the company, 60% of the items collected are eligible for resale. These items will be sold to a variety of buyers, including European online platforms, Eastern European discount second-hand chains, and African importers. A third of clothing will be sent to recycling facilities, where the majority will be made into sofa stuffing or car insulation, both of which are known in the industry as “downcycling.”
5% of all collections are made up of clothing that cannot be recycled or reused and will be burned at power plants, according to Bolon.
Although automated technologies will also be used, human hands will sort items the majority of the time.
Bolon served in a number of capacities at H&M before being named CEO of Looper Textile, most recently as head of commercial, advisory, and strategic partnerships.
The decision by H&M comes as pressure increases on a sector of the economy that annually produces 100 billion articles of clothing, or 14 garments for every person on Earth.
According to consulting company McKinsey & Co., only about a third of unwanted clothing is collected. According to a UK nonprofit organization called the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, less than 1% of that is recycled into new clothing.