Sunday, January 6, 2013

H&M Launches Clothing Recycling Program

Good news for eco-conscious fast fashion fans - clothing chain H&M is getting into the recycling game. Starting February 13, the clothing giant will be implementing a recycling program in select stores across all of its 48 markets. People will be able to bring in their unwanted clothing (any item, any condition - they don't even need to be h&m brand), receiving a $5 voucher towards new purchases.

According to H&M "Every year, tons of textiles are thrown out with domestic waste and end up in landfill. As much as 95% of these clothes could be used again; re-worn, reused or recycled — depending on the state of the garment. Long-term, H&M wants to reduce the environmental impact of garments throughout the lifecycle and create a closed loop for textile fibers." It's great that they are concerned about recycling existing clothes, but this concern is contradicted by their clothing production practices. They sell over 550 million garments every year, with a weekly to bi-weekly turnover of stock. Recycling is important, but continually producing new garments, often designed not to last more than a season or two is more than a little environmentally irresponsible (even if they do increase the number of garments made from recycled materials).

Clothing collected will be processed by I:Collect, a partner of H&M. Although the environmental benefits of recycling clothing are clear, I can't help but wonder if clothing that otherwise would have been donated to charities, will end up in the h&m bins instead. Hopefully will think to donate to those in need first, but the program is still a good option though for items that aren't in good enough condition to be worth donating to a local charity.

H&M is the first clothing retailer to launch a worldwide recycling program, but recycling is already pretty prevalent in certain types of retail - electronics and cosmetics in particular. Here's a selection of independent and chain retailers with recycling initiatives:

Secrets from your Sister
Each February, the Toronto bra boutique has a 'Dead Bra Day' sale, where shoppers can bring in their old gently used bras for a 25% discount on a new bra. The collected bras are then donated to charity.

Available in the US, Europe, and Japan, the Butler Worn Out series, allows customers to return their old A.P.C. jeans for a 50% discount on new jeans. The old jeans are then washed, repaired if necessary, marked with the initials of the previous owner, and re-sold at A.P.C.  stores under the Butler moniker.

The American retailer encourages customers to return any Patagonia clothing that is no longer wearable for recycling.

When a little black dress is purchased from the American online dress shop, a prepaid mailer is sent to the customer, allowing them to  donate their of old bridesmaid (or other formal) dress. Donated dresses are donated to charity or upcycled.

Nike / Converse (reuse a shoe)
Many Nike and Converse stores accept donations of worn-out athletic shoes, which are then recycled. The recycled materials are used for Nike products and creating athletic and playground surfaces.

The shoe company has partnered with soles4souls with their Renew Your Soles program. Customers who donate a pair of gently worn shoes receive $20 off an $80 purchase at

They have a Recycle and be Rewarded program, where customers get a stamp for every full sized Khiel's container they return. 3 stamps gets you a new lip balm, 5 yields a travel collection product, for 10 stamps you get a full sized product, and with 10 empties you get all 3.

With their Back to M.A.C. program, customers receive a free lipstick for every 6 M.A.C. containers they return.

London Drugs
The Western Canadian drug stores have bins allowing people to recycle beauty product boxes. The materials are processed by TerraCycle and then used towards items such as park benches and garbage bins.

This company accepts any brand of cosmetics containers for recycling.

Many Electronics retailers offer discounts to people who donate their old devices. A few examples:


The Source

Best Buy

Mountain Equipment Co-op
The Canadian camping and outdoors equipment store doesn't have a recycling program per se, but they do have an online gear swap, where people can buy, sell or trade in old equipment.