H&M's fashions are on fire—literally, that is, in Vasteras, Sweden. A heat and power station that powers 150,000 homes there has a mandate to stop burning fossil fuels like coal and oil by 2020. Its path to achieving that involves burning "only renewable and recycled fuels," which in its case, includes recycled wood and "trash" from an H&M warehouse in the neighboring city of Eskilstuna. Bloomberg reports it was only last week that the trash was specified as clothing, and a rep for H&M in Sweden explains the company "does not burn any clothes that are safe to use." What's being torched—year to date, about 30,000 pounds' worth—are ones that may "contain mold or do not comply with our strict restriction on chemicals." The alternative would seemingly be a landfill, which is where a staggering amount of our clothing ends up.
The Atlantic in 2014 reported that Americans toss about 10.5 million tons of clothing a year. That's about 85% of what we get rid of, with the other 15% recycled—either ultimately worn by someone else, turned into industrial rags, or "ground down" and repurposed as items ranging from insulation and furniture stuffing to pet bedding, per the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association. The Sourcing Journal cites the Environmental Protection Agency's concern over the situation: The agency recorded a 38% jump in textile waste between 2000 and 2011. Quartz points to a 2016 McKinsey study that found that over that same period, European clothing companies increased their number of annual collections from two to five. (Read more about the issues with "fast fashion" here.)