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Circular economy in the fashion industry

The importance of working towards a circular economy

Correctly managing waste is vital to the overall health of our environment and working towards a circular economy is part of this.

A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy of make, use, and dispose. It means resources are kept in use for as long as possible, with maximum value extracted while in use, and materials recovered and regenerated at the end of its life.

Annually, 200 million tonnes of waste is discarded in the UK - of which 28 million tonnes comes from households, according to government figures.

Big brands getting involved

Thousands of tonnes of textiles are regularly thrown away with household waste, ending up in landfills. Some big brands in fashion are getting involved to curb this waste by introducing programmes to work towards a circular economy.

An example of this is using recycled materials to create new clothing - recycled polyester is commonly made from post-consumer PET (usually found as plastic bottles). 

In fact, after PET is processed, polymerised and woven into a new fabric, it can be recycled over and over again and continually used.

H&M Group have taken this to the next level. One of their goals of working towards a sustainable future includes an incredible amount of recycling. They've collected more than 17,700 tonnes of textiles (equivalent to 89 million t-shirts) in a bid to cut down discarded clothes and textiles.

Managing our resources

However, it's about more than just recycling - reusing is a major part of a circular economy - and something that H&M Group strives towards. They have made it easy for consumers to drop off their unwanted textiles at numerous stores, where they then sort out whether the clothes can be:

  • Reworn - sold as second-hand
  • Reused - turned into other products
  • Recycled - turned into textile fibres

Achieving full circularity is by no means easy, and innovation and new technology is an important part of working towards this goal. 
Changing thoughts and subsequent behaviours - from consumers to businesses - is key to managing waste and saves wasting our planet's resources.

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H&M Group have collected over 17,700 tonnes of textiles - equivalent to 89 million t-shirts.
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Where next?