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H&M wants all your clothes

A look inside the retail giant’s clothing recycling program.

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H&M wants all your clothes

Giselle Velazquez

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Spring-cleaning is a perfect opportunity to clear out that closet you have been intending to since god knows when! But how much of that clothing will end up in the trash (or stuffed back where it was)? A part of the issue is we don’t know what to do with those old clothes. Well, H&M might just be the answer you are looking for.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away 13 million tons of textiles each year. The EPA estimates that 3.8 billion pounds of consumer textile waste is recycled but that still leaves somewhat 85% of it in landfills, turning into more trash. Options for reducing these numbers are to donate old unworn clothing or selling them online.

Selling online can work but sometimes buyers will not accept clothing with small problems such as tears and stains or if an item is no longer in style or season. Thrift store or Goodwill are another options, but their requirements for donated goods are limited as well. They accept clothing that do not have tears or stains in them and they also profit from donations by reselling items in the store. They may also ask for donations for charity while only giving up to 5% of profits to the charity. That leaves us he option of visiting an H&M store!

H&M began its clothing recycling program in 2013. Through its sustainability initiative H&M aims to reward consumers for sustainable practices, to use only recycled or sustainable materials, and to use only renewable energy. When an individual donates unwanted clothes, they receive a 15% off coupon to use on their next purchase. And they accept all clothing donations including those torn or damaged.

Rebekah, a manager at the Puente Hills Mall location of H&M notices the 15% off coupon is a good practice because it gets people to take part and it also helps free up closet space. She, in fact, has donated clothes herself, alongside many of her colleagues, who feel that it is a much better option than throwing them away. That feeling was mutual among shoppers, like Maya Norton, who exclaimed, “Being able to free up closet space does interest me.” She actually doesn’t shop at H&M often, but that didn’t seem to stop her from recycling her clothes at the store.

The process of recycling clothes at H&M is simple and easy. A shopper gathers their clothes or textiles to be donated and takes them to their local H&M. There the convenient donation bins are accessible to the shopper. They notify an employee either before shopping or during check out that they want to donate their clothes and are handed a 15% off coupon valid on their next store purchase.

H&M’s efforts go beyond recycling clothing; they’ve taken that recycled material and created a new line of clothing called H&M Conscious. These clothes are made from 20% recycled cotton from post-consumer textile waste that has been recycled in store. They’ve also created children’s clothing that uses organic cotton, which Rebekah said is a top seller because of its quality.

Since 2013, H&M has collected almost 39,000 tons of clothing from its group stores, and is aiming for 25,000 tons a year by 2020.

Now there is also another side to the argument, based on the fact that there are loopholes in their recycling system (and all the accusations that H&M has long faced). Feel free to take a look at it before you make up your mind.

If H&M doesn’t seem like the best option for recycling your clothing, donating to homeless shelters can always be the ideal way to go.

 

Photo-credit: Images by Elle Velazquez

 

Giselle Velazquez is a journalism student at Cal State LA. She enjoys writing about sports and the environment.More stories from Giselle can be found on her blog ‘Ecofriendly Culture’ at: https://ecofriendlyculture.wordpress.com

The story, and her blog, were produced as a part of JOUR4820: Digital Journalism

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