• H&M reportedly incinerated 19 tonnes of new clothes in Västerås, Sweden in 2016.
  • It was previously accused of incinerating half this amount in Denmark.
  • H&M maintains it only destroys products that do not fulfil its safety regulations.

Swedish clothing giant Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) has again been accused of incinerating unused clothes, rather than recycling them – this time in Sweden and amounting to twice as much as previously disclosed.

According to local media outlet SVT, H&M reportedly incinerated 19 tonnes of new clothes in Västerås in 2016. The amount is nearly twice what the retailer was accused of burning in Denmark in October and corresponds to around 50,000 pairs of jeans.

The report says H&M has repeatedly sent large amounts of goods in a specially constructed sealed container to be burned as Västerå's CHP plant over the last five years.

The fashion retailer, however, maintains that it only destroys products that do not fulfil its safety regulations. Acting environment manager, Cecilia Strömblad Brännsten, told the publication: "It is our responsibility to our customers and it is also our legal obligation that we do not sell products that may be harmful. From an environmental perspective, we want to make our products have as long a service life as possible."

The allegations come just a month after H&M was accused of sending "tonnes" of unused clothing to incinerators rather than recycling it, despite encouraging customers to return used clothing to its retail stores to be recycled.

H&M, Bestseller hit out at waste clothing incineration claims

A spokesperson for H&M told just-style at the time that it was "puzzled" by the suggestion it would destroy products other than those that required it. A spokesperson said: "There is absolutely no reason for us to do such a thing. The products media refers to have been tested in external laboratories. The test results show that one of the products is mould infested and the other product [has] high levels of lead."

Sweden's Minister for the Environment, Karolina Skog, questions why a company like H&M, which previously pledged to remove all hazardous chemicals from its products by 2020, is still producing and shipping apparel that is potentially harmful to consumers.

"The first question that strikes me is why are there so high levels of chemicals in the product that they can not be sold. It is a sign of something that I think is problematic. This reflects the great use of chemicals in production," she says.

Skog also believes clothing companies have a major responsibility to minimise their environmental impact.

A spokesperson for H&M said of the claims: "It is our responsibility to ensure that everything we sell in our stores is safe. For us this is a basic requirement, and what is most important to us. Therefore, any garments that are deemed as potentially harmful to the health of our customers must be destroyed – they should not be sold to customers, donated to charity or recycled. This is our legal obligation.

"However, it is very rare that we need to send clothes for destruction and thanks to our preventive work together with our suppliers, it is decreasing for every year. We have strict chemical regulations and our goal is to eliminate those chemicals that we have identified as hazardous from our production at the latest by 2020.

"Under no circumstances do we destroy clothes that are safe to use. We see clothes and textiles as a resource far too valuable to be destroyed. Instead, all products that are safe to use are sold in our stores or are reused and recycled.

"In addition, we want our customers to know that the clothes we have collected in our stores through our garment collecting initiative are directly sent for reuse and recycling. Since 2013, we have collected 55,000 tonnes of textiles and we want to continue make it easy for our customers to give used clothes a new life."