The 12-piece organic cotton collection for newborns (priced at $4.99-$17.99) will launch in May and includes tops, bottoms with adjustable waist and cuffs, jackets, hats and blankets .
Abigail Kammerzell, sustainability manager at H&M in the US, said all items are 100% biodegradable, including the pigments used to print designs on the garments. She said the pieces are also deliberately free of buttons or metallic trim.
This is to ensure that each piece can be composted when it is out of use, even by simply putting them in a compost heap at home.
“This is the first of our clothing collections that is compostable,” Kammerzell said.
Given the global reach of H&M, with more than 4,000 stores worldwide, she said the company was able to “enable big changes in the fashion industry and we hope to be a leader in when it comes to sustainability and keeping clothes out of landfills”.
This latest effort from the Swedish fashion retailer comes amid rising volumes of clothing waste around the world and growing concern about fast fashion’s contribution to it.
The EPA said landfills received 11.3 million tons of this 2018 textile waste, which represented 7.7% of all municipal waste that ended up in landfills.
H&M and other fast fashion retailers, including Zara, have recently taken steps to reduce clothing waste.
In 2013, H&M launched a global clothing collection program and set a goal to have all clothing sold in its stores made from recycled or sustainably sourced materials by 2030. This figure rises currently at 80%, according to the company.
The retailer collected more than 29,000 tons of clothing for its recycling program in 2019, but said the pandemic slowed the effort in 2020 and 2021, with nearly 16,000 tons collected last year.
Kammerzell said H&M had tripled the share of recycled materials used in its clothing from 5.8% to 17.9%, with a goal of reaching 30% by 2025.
But she acknowledged that challenges remain for the industry to more fully embrace sustainability efforts. “We don’t agree with new suppliers who have coal-fired boilers on their premises,” she said. “There are a lot of factories in the industry that still use them.”
Jessica Schreiber is the founder and CEO of FABSCRAP, a nonprofit initiative that provides collection and recycling services for fabric scraps from New York and Philadelphia businesses.
Schreiber said she’s also excited to see a big name in the industry like H&M continue to drive sustainability innovation. But she’s cautious that these are incremental solutions to a much bigger problem.
“It’s always a step forward for a company as big as H&M to show it’s putting in the effort. But fast fashion retailers also regularly release a lot of clothes,” Schreiber said. “To really turn the tide and slow the volume of clothes that end up in the waste stream, it will consistently take much larger movements.”