Sweden is a leader in waste-to-energy generator and earlier this year, the country began powering its incineration plants with trash purchased from neighbouring countries. With less than one per cent of Swedish household waste sent to landfills since 2011, the country has to source waste to keep its incineration plants running smoothly. Some of this waste is discarded clothing from fast fashion conglomerate H&M. Burning biofuels and waste is becoming an eco-friendly trend in a CSR strategy to move the power system away from using fossil fuel in an effort to help Sweden’s extensive emission-free portfolio of using wind, hydro and nuclear plants and ensure that the country achieves its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2045.
Bloomberg reports a combined heat and power station in Vesteras has burned 15 tons of discarded H&M clothing in 2017, in addition to 4,00,000 tons of trash. Another plant in the neighbouring city of Eskilstuna — the location of the world’s first shopping mall selling only up-cycled or repaired goods — is also burning clothing from H&Ms warehouse.
The burning of perfectly good textiles does not go down well with countries that have numerous people with no decent clothes to wear. Jens Neren, Head of supplies at Malarenergi AB says for them, it’s a burnable material as their goal is to use only renewable and recycled fuels. H&Ms Head of Communications, Johanna Dahl, says the clothing the company sells to the Vesteras and Malarenergi plants are not really fit to sell in stores. “H&M does not burn any clothes that are safe to use, however, it is our legal obligation to make sure that clothes that contain mould or do not comply with our strict restriction on chemicals are destroyed.”
Recently, a Danish TV program accused H&M of yearly burning 12 tons of unsold, useable garments in Denmark. H&M admits that the situation isn’t ideal and says that the company is committed to finding alternatives solutions.