The non-profit H&M Foundation and The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) have discovered a technological breakthrough in which they are able to recycle blend textiles into new fabrics and yarns without any quality loss through a hydrothermal (chemical) process.
What this means is a solution for the fashion industry that has for a very long time not been able to properly recycle it products. With the breakthrough, old garments made from textile blends like cotton and polyester blends can now be fully separated, recycled and reused without any quality loss. What’s even better is that with the hydrothermal process used – which HKRITA developed together with Ehime University and Shinsu University in Japan – uses only heat, water and less than 5% biodegradable green chemical so there’s no pollution to the environment, creating sustainability in the long run.
Through this upcycling method, the fashion industry no longer needs to solely rely on virgin materials for its production, allowing it to operate in a better, more sustainable nature that is beneficial not just to the environment but also its people and communities. The technology will now be scaled up and tested further to prove its commercial viability and from there, it will be licensed widely.
This partnership between H&M Foundation and HKRITA was initiated in September 2016 with an estimated funding of 5.8 million euros. The aim was to find at least one ready technology to recycle clothes made from blend textiles during its four-year period. Annual surplus from the H&M global in-store garment collecting programme was used for the research. In total, the project investment is estimated to be around 30 million euros during the entire collaboration, making it one of the biggest and more comprehensive ever for textile recycling.