In February 2013 clothing company H&M will start collecting used clothes. Customers can bring in their old clothes for recycling. In return, they will be awarded with a 15% discount on a new item of their choice. The clothes don’t have to be H&M to be accepted: they can be from any brand and can be in any condition. For this programme H&M is collaborating with iCollect, a global recycling company that will handle the clothes and make them ready for reuse.
H&M is not the first brand that is launching a recycling programme (take for instance the idea of shwopping launched by M&S), but they are the first doing it on a global scale. With this programme, H&M aims to reduce waste and create awareness about the subject of sustainability.
At first sight this looks like a great initiative. Encouraging people to recycle used clothes and making them aware of the waste they produce is always a good thing. Still, commercial brands always have more than one objective to why they are doing things and I can’t shake the feeling that this is no exception. The fact that costumers who hand in clothes get rewarded with a discount for doing so, is what is feeding this feeling. What H&M is doing, is making it attractive to bring the things you no longer wear. But not because it is a good environmental choice to do so, but because they give you a discount. With that they are really encouraging people to buy new things. Because using a discount someone gives you, is like throwing your money down the drain, right?
I do also see the advantages of collecting and then recycling clothes on such a large scale as H&M is aiming for, instead of small scattered initiatives. But to really make a difference H&M should try to find a reward that steers away from encouraging consumerism.
So, what would it take to make you bring in your clothes?