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STOCKHOLM – A new H&M Foundation-backed technology facility in Hong Kong will allow end consumers to hand in their old clothing items and watch them be recycled into new garments. The H&M Foundation and Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) have opened two new textile recycling facilities in Hong Kong which, for the first time, will use the HKRITA’s hydrothermal recycling technology technology at scale.

Last year, HKRITA, together with the H&M Foundation, developed a new method for recycling blend textiles into new fabrics. Using only heat, less than five per cent biodegradable green chemical, and water, the new innovative solution is using a hydrothermal (chemical) fibre-to-fibre recycling process to self-separate cottons and polyester. The resulting polyester is claimed to be usable without any quality loss, thus giving fibres a second life. H&M as well as HKRITA plan to make the new technology available to the global fashion industry so that a closed loop for textiles can be targeted worldwide.

As part of the new announcement, H&M Foundation said a miniaturised chemical textile recycling system will now be opened for the public. The 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.

“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,” said Erik Bang, innovation lead H&M Foundation.

“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 recognise the difference their actions can make.”

“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,” added Edwin Keh, CEO of HKRITA.

The H&M Foundation is projected to invest €5.8m with HKRITA over four years. The investment is made possible through the surplus from the H&M group’s in-store garment collecting programmes, which is donated to the H&M Foundation.

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