H&M does a lot to present itself sustainably, and the fashion company is one of the big players when it comes to quickly consuming, cheap clothes. Now the Swedish brand has developed a new recycling system. What to think of it. “Looop” is the name of the machine that H&M recently had in a store in Stockholm – and that is intended to help make the Swedish company’s fashion more sustainable . Sounds great at first. Green fashion is important and good.
“Looop” is supposed to transform old clothes into new ones. It should work like this:
The machine is fed with old clothes, which are cleaned in the first step and cut into small pieces. These are then broken down into individual fibers, from which new yarn is then spun. H&M promises that neither water nor chemicals are used in this process – the old fibers would only be mixed with some new fibers in order to be able to produce a strong yarn – from which a new item of clothing can then be knitted.
This production method is said to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly than conventional textile production. H&M is presenting itself as a “Circular Fashion Brand” – a fashion brand that (attention, unsexy word) operates a circular economy. This means that things are produced in such a way that nothing ends up in the trash. All materials are reused, recycled or upcycled .
The fashion industry is not sustainable – especially not “fast fashion”
A system that – as far as most of the fashion industry is concerned – has so far been a dream and a utopia: “Fast fashion” has been the thing for a good 20 years . Zara and H&M, Primark, Mango, Bohoo – the list of cheaply produced mass fashion brands is long. Constantly new collections and ever lower prices should encourage consumers to buy. The losers in the game: Underpaid workers in sweatshops in Southeast Asia, poisoned rivers, parched landscapes.
Many fashion brands have now understood that this is no longer the coolest image in 2020. But they have also understood that sustainability is a good marketing tool – and how quickly people can be fooled by a little “greenwashing”.
Tons of clothes are produced, tons of unused incinerated – and a single recycling machine should help?
Back to H&M: The Swedish company, which produces tons of mass fashion every year, now has a machine in one (!) Of 5,076 branches that is supposed to recycle a few old clothes. “That is nice marketing and maybe quite nice to inform people a bit about recycling,” says Kai Nebel, sustainability officer of the faculty of textiles and design at Reutlingen University. “But it’s a gimmick, a drop in the ocean – something that should have been introduced 30 years ago . Considering how many masses of H&M are selling and destroying themselves, that doesn’t really help.”
Destroyed? Yes, because currently more clothing ends up in the trash than ever before – because many brands calculate with overproduction. Kai Nebel assumes that 50 percent of the new clothing produced worldwide simply ends up in landfills or is burned – without ever being in the hands of a customer. At H&M alone – as of 2017 – an average of twelve tons of clothing are burned annually in Denmark and around 19 tons in Sweden.
We choke on old clothes – very little is recycled
But that is not the only problem: Because so much cheap fashion is produced, we buy too much, hardly wear the items and throw them away after a short time. A huge burden on the environment. “In Germany alone we struggle with 1.5 million tons of old clothing every year – we suffocate in it,” says Kai Nebel from the faculty of textiles and design at Reutlingen University. Less than one percent of the clothing produced worldwide is recycled into new clothing. So when H&M advertises great recycling now, it has a pale aftertaste. Nebel also warns of a “rebound effect”: “People see that and think they can shop at H&M with a clear conscience.” In case of doubt, consumption is not stopped, but simply promoted even more blatantly.
Before you let yourself be fooled by the greenwashing of large corporations , you should pay attention to a more sustainable approach to fashion yourself. Means: Buy less and actually wear what you buy. Appreciating and caring for clothes instead of throwing them away after a few months. Find out about working conditions, look for labels that work regionally and transparently , and don’t let a little green marketing blind you.