H&M in February will launch iCollect, a global recycling initiative.

This story first appeared in the December 6, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

ICollect offers consumers vouchers in the form of store discounts in exchange for every bag of clothing donated. H&M has been testing iCollect for over a year in Switzerland with positive results, said Henrik Lampa, product sustainability manager.

The retailer hopes to learn more from the iCollect project about smart sorting and how recycling technology can be scaled up to be more commercially viable, Lampa said. The fast-fashion giant could also use the recycled fibers for a new collection. “That’s something we think has a value,” Lampa said of apparel made from recycled garments. “If it’s post-consumer recycled, that’s certainly something we would let the customer know.”

The environment has always been important to H&M. The company in April released its 10th global sustainability report, which touched on hot-button issues from organic fibers to workers’ rights. The report said H&M was the world’s largest user of organic cotton in 2011. Some of that cotton found its way into the Conscious Collection, a line made from fabrics such as organic cotton, organic linen, Tencel and recycled polyester that H&M introduced last year. The line is part of a goal to use only sustainable cotton by 2020. Another goal for the company is to lead the industry toward achieving zero discharges of chemicals by 2020.

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Lampa said the idea for iCollect came from the fact that “there are a lot of garments that really go to waste. We encourage customers to use garments for as long as possible, but we know a lot goes to incineration plants. We want to advance recycling. We want to organically grow this idea.”

ICollect boxes will be placed near cash wraps in stores. Any type of garment is accepted. It doesn’t need to have an H&M label and it doesn’t have to be in good condition. In terms of investment, Lampa said, “It’s us spending a bit of time and that’s essentially it.” ICollect pays the H&M Conscious Foundation for the garments. The foundation will use the proceeds for speeding up technology and sourcing as well as social projects along the supply chain.

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