When can something be called recycled or sustainable and is it better?


The above link is to an article regarding H&M promotion of their recycled garments.  The article is very interesting and H&M must be applauded for what they are trying to do,  however when you actually read the article it says that for these new garments a maximum of 20% of recycled fibre is used,  apparently this is the maximum amount of recycled fibre that can be used and still maintain garment integrity / stability.  So if only a fifth of the garment is recycled this obviously means the rest of the garment is new and the environmental issues are still there etc.

I wonder what is the environmental impact of recycling fibres ? I appreciate that if you have a garment that is no longer required and you donate it to a charity then the environmental impact of this will be quite small.  I think the worst case scenario is that the garment will be washed by the people who collect it before sending it on.  However if you have a garment and you break it down to use the fibres in a newly constructed garment,  there must be a higher environmental impact there? .  Does the breaking down, reforming etc have an equal environmental load as if it was a new garment, or perhaps because of the initial work you have to do on the original garment does this actually mean an equivalent or even higher environmental impact.

Also in the case of a garment itself can it truly be called a recycled garment if the recycled portion is in the minority of the overall construction of the garment ?  I appreciate that there is a lot of excitement about this development from H&M and no doubt other retailers will follow with this kind of initiative.  As it will be something that is embraced by the public as they will perceive rightly or wrongly that they are doing great things to help the environment.  I would like  to see more information from H&M about what the actual impact is for this kind of garment compared against their new garments and I think that this should be communicated to the consumer so that they can see what this actually means.  An informed consumer will make the right decisions, what we should not be doing as an industry is making marketing claims without backing them up.  If these garments are much better for the environment then it would be good to have that information.


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