Blog: Michelle RussellClothing recycling gaining momentum

Michelle Russell | 7 August 2015

More apparel retailers appear to be ramping up their sustainability efforts in a way that will get consumers involved, with initiatives such as clothing recycling becoming increasingly popular.

Jeans giant Levi Strauss & Co last week expanded its clothing recycling initiative to all stores in the US, as part of ongoing efforts to reduce the amount of textiles that end up in landfill.

By extending the programme, Levi says it will be easier for consumers to recycle clothing and shoes, and create an infrastructure that supports a circular economy by 2020.

And following hot on Levi's heels is Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), which is set to launch its Fashion Recycling Week on 31 August in the UK as part of the brand's latest attempt to make the industry a little more green.

Working with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion, the brand has challenged students to use items donated to H&M's clothing collection programme to make recycled pieces that will be seen in eight stores throughout the UK.

This is just one of many initiatives implemented by the Swedish retailer, which launched its Garment Collecting programme at the beginning of 2013, with the aim of limiting the amount of textiles that end up in landfill.

And as part of its work to close the loop in its clothing supply chain, the retailer launched a denim collection made from recycled textile fibres earlier this year.

The initiatives by H&M and Levi are just two examples of clothing retailers working to close the loop in the clothing supply chain, with more and more brands launching products that use recycled fibres, and encouraging consumers to swap their old clothes.

But while progress is being made, it seems there is still a way to go. According to JustMeans.com, the US in particular is not doing very well on the recycling front with only 15% - or 10.5m tonnes - of clothes, shoes and accessories recycled each year.

So while the message appears to be spreading, it is still just a ripple, and it is up to the big brands to ensure that message is more of a wave. Innovation into more sustainable clothing and encouraging recycling remain key.

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