Technology

The first machine to separate and recycle cotton and polyester blends at scale

Retail chain Monki drops special collection created by The Green Machine.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
December 07, 2020

Blend textiles — textiles made from not just one material but several — are the most common type of textile in fashion and the world. And, as you need to separate the different materials from each other, much harder to recycle. That’s why Jenny Fagerlin, Head of Sustainability at Monki, describes their new tracksuit, created by The Green Machine, as ”a revolution”.

— It’s the first time it’s done and these are the very first garments ever made for customers. Not only that, we do it in a safe, resource-efficient, and cost-efficient way. This is a true milestone for the transformation of this industry, she states.

The Green Machine is a result of a research collaboration between the H&M Foundation and HKRITA (Hong Kong Research Institute of Textile and Apparel). And, as part of H&M Group and known for empowering young women and addressing everything from body positivity, sustainability, and periods to new fashion trends, it’s quite natural that Monki is the first brand using the technology for its customers.

How does it work?

— The machine uses heat, water, pressure plus a green chemical that separates the fibers so they can be recovered. It also takes out the colour of the fabric which means you can recycle all styles. The system is closed-loop meaning we always recover the water, the heat, and the green chemical. It’s developed with full intent not to create another problem but to provide a solution in its true meaning, tells Fagerlin.

How will you continue working with it?

— With this drop we want to create awareness about the technology and process — how this technology can separate cotton and polyester from a garment that are made up by these two components. We want the innovation process to be transparent and believe that by showing the world what we are doing, the possibilities and the learnings can be absorbed quicker by the whole industry. We plan for additional drops during the upcoming year, with the aim to scale up the production by autumn 2021.

Monki’s futural sustainability plans aim to reduce the climate footprint faster than the 1.5-degree targets originated in the Paris Agreement before 2030.

— In order to reach that, we need to have a business model that remains within the planetary boundaries. In the next coming years, we need to take steps into the unknown with a clear focus to transform from how we do business today. Today our theory of change contains 3 big blocks that we must innovate and execute: produce what we sell with zero waste, prolong the life of products, and close the loop through recycling, upcycling, and innovative design. That means that our products need to be designed and sourced so they can be put back into our supply chain and recycled into new ones, says Fagerlin.

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