Understanding the amount and nature of chemicals present in post-consumer textiles is important for companies looking to procure these materials for recycling as chemicals continue to be present despite repeated washes. Using textiles without knowing their chemical content makes recycling hard for companies with high chemical transparency on their agenda.
Hence, two years ago, IKEA and fashion retailer H&M joined hands to initiate a large-scale study to understand chemical content in collected post-consumer cotton, wool, and polyester and how current recycled textiles measure against existing chemical standards.
This is an important study for both IKEA and H&M as both companies have goals of transforming into circular businesses.
"When we know the chemical content in recycled textiles, we can take fact-based decisions whether this is an opportunity we can continue with, or if there is a chemical risk – then we need to take specific actions to understand how to take the next step," says Mirjam.
Last year, adidas, Bestseller, Kingfisher, GAP Inc. and PVH Corp. also joined the study as contributors. As a part of this study, over 70,000 tests have been conducted on different recycled textiles – cotton, wool and polyester. Of these tests, only 2.5 per cent came back with undesired detections, indicating that using recycled textiles has many advantages for the environment but will need more work.
"Today, discarded garments are regarded as waste, representing a large barrier from a circular resource perspective. We, therefore, call for collected textiles to be defined as a resource given the large potential of positive climate and environmental impact that extending product life and recovering materials from recycled textiles can have," says Linn Farhadi, Project Manager Recycled Textiles at H&M Group.