Groundbreaking Method Found For Recycling Blend Textiles into New Fibres

There has been a technological breakthrough in the journey towards a closed loop for textiles thanks to H&M's commitment to safeguarding not only the planet but also the living conditions for people and communities around the world.

Muchaneta Kapfunde
Founding Editor in Chief at | editor@fashnerd.com

Founding editor-in-chief & WearableTechStylist of FashNerd.com has worked in the fashion industry for over 14 years. She is currently one of the leading influencers speaking and writing about the merger of fashion with technology and wearable technology. She also contributes to other digital news sites like Wareable.

One year into the partnership, between the non-profit H&M Foundation and The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) has resulted in groundbreaking solutions to recycle blend textiles into new fabrics and yarns – without any quality loss – through a hydrothermal (chemical) process.

Apparel Recycling
Erik Bang, Innovation Lead at H&M Foundation and Edwin Keh, CEO of HKRITA.

According to H&M, the aim of the Closed-Loop Apparel Recycling Eco-System Program has successfully developed a hydrothermal (chemical) process that can fully separate and recycle cotton and polyester blends. The recovered polyester material can be reused directly, creating new benefits of recycling without any quality loss. The hydrothermal process uses only heat, water and less than 5% biodegradable green chemical, to self-separate cotton and polyester blends. This fibre-to-fibre recycling method is cost effective, and there’s no secondary pollution to the environment, ensuring the life of the recycled material is prolonged in a sustainable fashion. The technology will be licensed widely to ensure broad market access and maximum impact.

“There’s no commercially viable separation, sorting, and recycling technology available for the most popular materials such as cotton and polyester blends.”

Erik Bang, Innovation Lead at H&M Foundation shared, “For too long the fashion industry has not been able to properly recycle its products, since there’s no commercially viable separation, sorting, and recycling technology available for the most popular materials such as cotton and polyester blends. This very encouraging finding has the potential to change that. We are very excited to develop this technology and scale it beyond the laboratory, which will benefit the global environment, people and communities.”

Fibres
The hydrothermal process uses only heat, water and less than 5% biodegradable green chemical, to self-separate cotton and polyester blends.

Within the past year they have come up with a hydrothermal process that uses only heat, water and less than 5% biodegradable green chemical, to self-separate cotton and polyester blends. “By being able to upcycle used textiles into new high value textiles, we no longer need to solely rely on virgin materials to dress a growing world population. This is a major breakthrough in the pursuit of a fashion industry operating within the planetary boundaries,” said Edwin Keh, Chief Executive Officer of HKRITA.

ALSO READ: What We Know, And Need To Know, About Sustainable Fashion

The commercially viable method is one of the biggest and most comprehensive efforts ever made when it comes to textile recycling. The partnership which started September 2016 is backed by an estimated 5.8 million euros of funding. To date the H&M Foundation has donated 2.4 million euros to HKRITA. H&M have confirmed that during the four-year collaboration (2016-2020), the total project investment is estimated to be at around 30 million euros.

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