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What is H&M Foundation's Green Machine?

A new step towards circularity in fashion

What is H&M Foundation's Green Machine? A new step towards circularity in fashion

The fashion industry has a problem with the so-called poly-cotton blends, that is, those mixed fabrics of polyester and cotton whose fibres, once combined, are difficult to separate and therefore recycle. A problem that could be solved with the Green Machine of the H&M Foundation, a technology developed by the Swedish brand over four years in partnership with the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel. The first results of this new technology are expected to appear soon as Monki, a subsidiary brand of H&M, is about to present the first limited-edition collection made from recycled and fully recyclable fibers in turn. 

The Green Machine uses heat, water and 5% citric acid to separate poly-cotton fibers. Through this process, cotton fibers are transmitted into cellulose powder and polyester is extracted and then spun. In addition, the Green Machine is a closed-loop machine, capable of recycling the same water, heat and biodegradable chemicals without producing waste or discharges. Recycled polyester is also a competitive alternative to virgin polyester – a popular material because it is highly economical. 

However, the system is not yet perfect: recycled polyester still releases mycrofibre into the water and cannot recover materials outside polyester and cotton. Moreover, as Erik Bang, Innovation Lead at the H&M Foundation, explains, no definitive solutions will come soon if the entire industry does not adopt this technology – which is also why the use of the Green Machine will be licensed to other companies that want to use it. Bang also spoke about the problem of overproduction, without going into detail, but noting that production is commensurate with an ever-growing world population.