The mechanization of fast fashion, a phenomenon that has spread to all corners of the globe, is growing at an alarming rate. Aside from a steady flow of new collections, fast fashion is one of the largest contributors to climate change. But a Swedish power plant is trying to combat the overproduction of clothes by burning H&M’s excess clothes for fuel.
Malarenergi AB, the company that runs the power plant in Sweden, sees the fashion tycoon’s clothes as a source of “burnable material,” according to company’s head of fuel supplies Jens Neren. Since the company’s objective is to use renewable and recycled fuel, clothing seems like an appropriate source of fuel for the electricity and heat of the plant. The news was first announced by SVT Play, a branch of Sveriges TV.
In today’s world, consumer culture extends far beyond clothing, applying to technology, food and other industries. H&M, which is renowned for its affordable clothing styles, is one of many fashion tycoons that have comfortably shifted towards a model of “fast-fashion.” The company has pledged to work towards Sweden’s goal to strictly use organic and renewable resources by 2030. In 2013, H&M launched its “Conscious Collection,” which vows to use organic and renewable materials when it can, attaching a green tag explaining the initiative to customers. This, however, has not stunted the company’s contribution to productive waste in manufacturing the gross amount of clothes it does each year.
According to a 2016 study done by McKinsey & Company, H&M has increased its production to between 12-16 new collections annually – more than doubling its annual production of clothes since 2000, which makes curbing the downsides to fast fashion increasingly difficult. Johanna Dahl, the company’s head of communications, told Bloomberg that H&M doesn’t burn any of its clothes unless they are toxic to consumers or have mold, which gives Malarenergi AB’s every more reason to begin burning clothes.
As committed to sustainable and efficient fashion as H&M claims it is in the company’s 2016 sustainability report, a deeper reading of the report suggests otherwise. H&M claims 43% of the cotton used in production is sustainable and is the second largest consumer of recycled polyester, equivalent to 180 million PET bottles as of 2016.