by the way, H&M can't recycle
I've recently been to an H&M store with a friend (hi Dianne!) and critically checked out their stuff. And once entered the most hidden corner, stuffed with accessories and beauty products, I've found this:
The evil recycling box.
So let me try to map out what is happening here. Consumers of this fast fashion chain will see the box, react positively to it and come back with donations, which they will voluntarily put into it. In return for leaving their old clothes to be recycled, they receive vouchers to shop with H&M in the future.
There are two things happening here: greenwashing and creating loyalty. Greenwashing is by my öko definition any practices and marketing/press related activities that let's stakeholders of the organization believe they do good for the planet or people, whilst in fact, they simply don't. Accuracy is not provided and organizations often exaggerate their activities endlessly. We will come to that later. The second process of putting up this container is to create customer loyalty. As reward for doing something good, you will be provided with the opportunity to invest your money in fast fashion again. Quite contradictory to me, - to incentivise people who get rid of their clothes with more shopping opportunities.
Coming back to greenwashing, the brand actively advertises it's collection process with well-picked and very specific wording. In 2016, a campaign was announced to support 3 R's: Rewear, Reuse, Recycle. Does that sound familiar? Some geeks of you might be aware of the R's fashion revolutionists use: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. So H&M has placed 'reduce' with 'rewear'. Ok, fair enough. But still, it's interesting to see how reducing the fashion consumption is not part of H&Ms concept. And this container includes wording 'to close the loop'. Closed loop or cradle to cradle processes are for sure not found with H&M.
Looking at the recycling process in depth, let's crack the numbers (thanks to the Guardian):
Due to the variety of collected clothes, not all materials can technically be recycled. Lucy Siegle calculated that H&M will take up to 12 years with today's innovations to recycle all collected clothes. That is the equivalent of what the company produces within 48 hours!!!
When letting people believe they do something good with putting their clothes into the container, whilst not being able to fulfill the promise, is toootal greenwashing.
What you can do to recycle clothes:
We as consumers have great opportunities to donate our items more purposefully. There are local charities who accept clothes which are still wearable. In Sweden, Emmaus and Myrona are great social enterprises. In Germany I mostly think of Oxfam. If there is no retail store in your city, you can find donation containers of these businesses.
Before donating clothes, check if these are still wearable. A hole, a missing button or ripped seam can easily be fixed. Otherwise, think of solutions to make use of the textile before throwing it away. I still have an old sweater out of cotton, which I want to upcycle to zero waste make up remover pads. My old jeans turned into a laptop sleeve, thanks to a sewing workshop here in Sweden and other projects are still waiting for me. I'm mostly being lazy here, so inspire me and motivate me with your DIYs!