Ever wonder what happens to the clothes you drop off at your local H&M for a discount on your purchase? The fast-fashion retailer began its in-store garment collection program back in 2013, promising that your closet’s castoffs would have one of three fates: either reused in a different capacity, resold in second-hand stores, or recycled into new textile. The latter has been the basis of the Swedish brand’s Close The Loop collection — the latest of which (now in its third drop) landed in stores this week.
The denim and athleisure pieces are all partially made from garments dropped off by the very consumers that’ll be shopping them anew. Since the launch of the clothing-recycling initiative a few years back, H&M has rescued more than 32,000 tons of threads from ecological havoc. The brand’s partner in good, I:CO, sorts the remainders into items that can be reworn, reused as-is, or transformed into housing insulation. (Granted, only a percentage of these donations have what it takes to be repurposed into a new pair of jeans.)
The goal is for H&M to one day successfully reuse all textile fiber from a discarded garment — and it’s not alone in this mission: Earlier this year, Levi’s made a prototype pair of jeans made entirely out of recycled cotton. Zara recently released its first sustainable collection. H&M was an early adopter of sustainable practices — first with an organic cotton line and later with its high-end Conscious Collection, which created completely from sustainable materials. However, this doesn’t always detract from the staggering output a clothing brand like H&M has: The rapid production cycle contributes to the 84% of clothing waste that ends up in landfills, according to Newsweek — not to mention the reported working conditions of its independent providers abroad.
Still, the environmental responsibility of the retail industry has become increasingly important to both shoppers and retailers. Consumers also benefit beyond the do-good feels received from recycling: Madewell offers $20 off a fresh pair of denim after donating a used pair to the Blue Jeans Go Green campaign, while & Other Stories (which is owned by H&M’s parent company) also partners with I:CO, offering a 10% discount to customers recycling beauty empties and unwanted textiles.
Ahead, see how your old clothes have gotten a new life (and an athleisure revamp), courtesy of H&M, along with some eco-minded pieces from the Conscious Collection.