Recycled materials

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Turning waste into fashion

In March 2021, we launched a pilot project to help our suppliers turn what was once seen as waste into new clothes and accessories — an important part of our journey towards circularity. And as a result, an additional 500 tons of materials were recycled during the year.

Worker in a garment recycle center
In 2021, H&M Group tripled the share of recycled materials in our garments, from 5.8% to 17.9%.

In the pilot, workers in all stages of the production sort waste based on material composition and colour, which is then handed over to recyclers and registered on a digital platform. That database provides us with valuable insights and helps us plan recycling solutions based on the type of waste.

“Our teams support the implementation of the waste management practices and help train the staff”, Suhas Khandagale, Material Innovation & Strategy Manager at H&M Group, explains.

“We also provide the digital platform and connect the suppliers to local recyclers. And to further incentivize the suppliers, we offer a buyback assurance. That is important since a demand for recycled materials will be key to unlock the circularity potential within the industry”.

Essential insights and great opportunities

In 2021, the participating suppliers sent approximately 500 tons of materials to be recycled. During the pilot, we could also use recycled yarn produced from waste in approximately 1.5 million new pieces. But more crucial, the pilot has given us important insights. Suhas Khandagale explains:

“We have learnt that there are technology gaps for bulk scale recycling. However, a lot is happening in this area; existing solutions are improved, and new ones are introduced almost monthly. We have also seen that a clear demand plan for recycled material is essential. And with the waste traceability data we gather, we will be able to match our buying plans with material recycled at our suppliers“.

Suhas Khandagale, Material Innovation & Strategy Manager at H&M Group
Suhas Khandagale, Material Innovation & Strategy Manager at H&M Group

Scale up to learn more

The next step in the pilot is to bring in additional suppliers and connect them to a broader network of recyclers. That will teach us even more and at the same time help us further promote circularity within the supply chain. Additionally, we partner with other companies to develop better systems and technologies that benefit the whole industry.

Annual & Sustainability Report 2021

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