At R280 a piece shoppers can use H&M's new in-store recycling machine to create a new clothing item

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H&M's garment-to-garment recycling machine has been launched in Sweden. (Image supplied by H&M)
H&M's garment-to-garment recycling machine has been launched in Sweden. (Image supplied by H&M)
  • In 2013, H&M became the first fashion retailer with a global garment collecting program, encouraging shoppers to drop off their old clothing items in their allocated recycling bins - the incentive being a shopping discount.
  • The major fashion brand also attracts ethical fashion enthusiasts with their Conscious Collection season after season - in South Africa and around the world.
  • This week, H&M unveils 'Looop' - a machine that recycles old clothes into brand new ones... in store, and it's currently only available at their Drottninggatan store in Stockholm, Sweden. 

After a Netflix Patriot Act episode hosted by Hasan Minhaj exposed the "ugly truth of fast fashion" and aired the dirty laundry of retail stores that practice greenwashing, it seems the industry is starting to clean up its act in more tangible ways. 

Earlier this year - in what might be considered to have been heeding the call from this exposé to slow down their fast fashion production - the consistently on-trend store launched a collection of dreamy dresses made entirely from recycled or sustainably sourced material, such as organic cotton, Tencel or recycled polyester.

The collection featured pieces in blends made from at least 50 percent sustainably sourced materials, as H&M expressed that "it is a collection of dresses for today in materials made for tomorrow". 

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But even with such efforts, considering the fact that the secondhand clothing market has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, drop-off bins such as those of H&M's global garment collection drive (amongst others), are no longer sustainable.  

It was time then, for innovative measures in sustainability to be taken up a notch. Introducing... Looop. 

H&M now offers customers in Sweden the possibility to transform unwanted individual garments into new fashion favourites - instead of donating them like old times - with the help of a new garment-to-garment recycling system they've named ‘Looop’ (yes, that's three 'o's). 

H&M South Africa caveats that Looop is not a replacement for their garment collecting initiative, saying; "We are very proud of the work we are doing with our local partner Clothes to Good, a local social enterprise based in Pretoria that gives preloved fashion items a new life." 

With regards to Looop, the international retailer says; "We are committed to closing the loop on fashion and this machine visualises to customers that old textiles hold a value and should never go to waste," the fashion brand states.

For 100 Swedish kronor (approximately R190), members of H&M's loyalty club can use Looop to transform their old garment into a new favourite. For non-members the fee is 150 Swedish kronor (about R280), with all proceeds going to projects related to research on materials. 

READ MORE: Turning airbags into handbags, Hyundai is reversing fast fashion's impact with upcycled clothes 

Looop opened to the public in one of H&M's Drottninggatan stores in Stockholm on 12 October 2020. This is the first time this garment-to-garment recycling system is shown in store by a fashion retailer, and H&M is proud to soon offer customers the opportunity to watch this container-sized machine recycle their old textiles into something new. 

H&M launches in-store recycling machine
                                                                                               Image supplied by H&M 

The Swedish retailer declares that this is part of a bigger plan, as their ambition is to become fully circular and climate positive, and they are working on many exciting projects to reach this goal.

"We must innovate materials and processes while inspiring customers to keep their garments in use for as long as possible," their media statement reads.  

Pascal Brun, head of sustainability at H&M, says: "We are constantly exploring new technology and innovations to help transform the fashion industry as we are working to reduce the dependency on virgin resources. Getting customers on board is key to achieve real change and we are so excited to see what Looop will inspire."   

H&M in-store recycling machine
                                                                                               Image supplied by H&M 

Well-known for their Conscious range - an eco-friendly offering of seasonal styles - H&M continues to aim to lead the change towards a sustainable fashion industry, given that in 2013, they became the first fashion retailer with a global garment collecting program

By 2030, the retail giant aims for all its materials to be either recycled or sourced in a more sustainable way - a figure that for 2019 was at 57 percent.

READ MORE: Fast fashion production - An environmental disaster that needs collective responsibility to change

So how does Looop work?  

Looop uses a technique that dissembles and assembles old garments into new ones. The garments are cleaned, shredded into fibres and spun into new yarn, which is then knitted into new fashion finds. 

H&M in-store recycling machine
H&M in-store recycling machine
                                                                                                 Images supplied by H&M 

Some sustainably-sourced virgin materials need to be added during the process, and they work to make this share as small as possible. The system uses no water and no chemicals, thus having a significantly lower environmental impact than when producing garments from scratch.

Additional information and images provided by H&M South Africa

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