According to Greenpeace International, media in Denmark have revealed that H&M is burning new clothes. Since 2013, 12 tonnes of clothing has been burned per year in Denmark alone.
H&M has been heavily promoting its recycling scheme. Whenever Greenpeace campaigned on the need to limit their immense use of resources, H&M responded with grand promises that soon everything will be "kept in the loop" and that technical innovations will make their manufacturing chain more sustainable. But Greenpeace International is now distrustful of a company that publishes lengthy sustainability reports which fail to mention anything about burning tonnes of clothing. Any brand that spends millions promoting recycling campaigns has to stand up to scrutiny.
At Greenpeace's insistence, H&M has now finally admitted that this is not an isolated case, but the incineration of reject clothes is a common practice worldwide. They say that they only burn clothes that can't be sold, gifted, or recycled - clothes that are unusable scrap due to production errors. They emphasise that it's only a last resort: when the labels on jeans are contaminated with lead or when t-shirts are mouldy. Shouldn't any company that has committed to recycling find a way to remove contaminated labels from their jeans and recycle the rest? If they take the problem of dangerous chemicals seriously, they shouldn't be releasing potentially harmful substances into the atmosphere. Despite their talk, H&M and other textile companies stubbornly continue their operations in the same old wasteful way.
It shows us how little they value their clothes. Bestseller (the parent company of Vero Moda and Jack & Jones) burned even more clothing than H&M last year in Denmark, and luxury labels are known to destroy unsold clothes, to stop them reappearing on the second-hand market. H&M has shown that damaged clothes don't deserve to be fixed; that they should be thrown onto the flames because recycling would be too costly and time -consuming.
If this is already too much effort, how is H&M's highly anticipated closed loop recycling scheme ever going to work? Perhaps H&M is just using the idea of recycling as an excuse to continue to produce disposable clothes without restraint.
We must break the cycle of overconsumption and end throw-away culture.