Guests were toasting in the grand opening of G2G Recycle System in The Mills.
Guests were toasting in the grand opening of G2G Recycle System in The Mills.

The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA)’s first local deployments of award-winning textile recycling technologies have been put into practice at both industrial and retail levels, with the recent openings of new facilities at the Novetex Factory in Tai Po Industrial Estate, Hong Kong, China and a retail shop selling ‘Garment-to-Garment’ (G2G) recycled garments in The Mills, Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong, China.

Locally developed textile recycling processes, including Post-consumer Blended Textile Separation and Recycling by Hydrothermal Treatment, Upcycling Post-consumer Blended Products and a Garment-to-Garment Recycle System, provide ground-breaking solutions to reuse textiles made of mixed fibres.

The two facilities launched, enabled by these technologies, provide a significant platform for local sustainable development of the textile and apparel industries, demonstrating the efforts of HKRITA and collaborators, Novetex Textiles Limited, H&M Foundation and The Mills, in achieving major breakthroughs to create a closed loop for post-consumer textiles through recycling.

Mr Edwin Keh, Chief Executive Officer of HKRITA, said, “After successfully developing revolutionary recycling technologies, we have devoted sustained effort to put them into practice. ‘Made in Hong Kong’ from our recycling systems in the yarn mill and the mini-scale system in the retail shop represent the industry’s well-applied innovation efforts.

Indeed, the end-to-end sustainability measures during the processes discourage unnecessary disposal of clothes by demonstrating that textile recycling is possible even in compact and busy cities like Hong Kong, Mr Keh continued.

First local spinning mill in half a century and first recycling mill in Hong Kong, China

This Novetex Upcycling Factory will eventually have 3 production lines, each capable of producing one ton of recycled fibres a day from post-consumer textiles.As Hong Kong’s first-ever textile recycling mill and the first local spinning mill to have opened in half a century, the Novetex Factory is also a pioneer in applying award-winning technology developed by HKRITA to a production-level textile upcycling system. 

The mechanical recycling system provides a safe and dry process to upcycle textile wastes into quality textile fibre which can then be used in the production of yarn, fabric and garments. This facility will eventually have 3 production lines, each capable of producing one ton a day of recycled fibres from post-consumer textiles.

The Novetex Factory will be in full operation in October, providing a sustainable and effective means of fibre-to-fibre recycling to drive the sustainability of the textile industry. 

According to Ms Ronna Chao, Chairman, Novetex Textiles Limited, the company’s upcycling technology breathes new life into otherwise old and unwanted garments, upcycling them into fabrics for use in footwear, apparel, and other soft applications. As a leading global textile manufacturer, Novetex is committed to sharing the responsibility of environmental protection and to supporting Hong Kong’s innovative technologies.

HKRITA and H&M Foundation jointly close the loop for textile and clothing industry

The factory also provides a testing place for the pre-industrial scale hydrothermal system which enables material separation of cotton polyester blends. The separated polyester fibres are ideal for spinning and manufacturing of new fabric, while cellulose powders, decomposed from the cotton, can be applied to functional products or regenerated fibre.

This project is one of the joint collaborations between HKRITA and H&M Foundation. HKRITA and H&M Foundation kicked off a four-year partnership in September 2016 to develop recycling technologies. The aim is to close the loop for the textile and clothing industry.

In the ambition of maximising impact in the industry and the potential for protecting the planet, this technology will when finalised be made available for anyone to use. The H&M Foundation has, to date, donated 3.5 million in funding, out of a total amount of 5.8 million committed under the partnership.

Since 2016, promising solutions including chemical and hydrothermal treatments have been identified to recycle blended textiles into new fabrics and yarns. HKRITA is going to focus the research direction on enhancing the efficiency of fibre-to-fibre closed loop recycling technologies, improving the properties of the separated fibres and cellulose powders, giving added value to textile fibre and extending the application of separated powders in order to develop more sustainable solutions for the industry.

“This is a significant step towards a new fashion industry that operates within the planetary boundaries. More importantly, we want to make an impact on our industry to protect our planet and our living conditions. As we scale up and make this technology freely available to the industry, we will reduce our dependence on limited natural resources to clothe a growing global population, said Mr Erik Bang, Innovation Lead of the H&M Foundation.

First retail shop selling G2G recycled garments in Hong Kong, China

The G2G Recycle System is a production line equipped with pioneering recycling technology to recycle used clothes to become sanitized garments.The G2G Recycle System, set up in a retail shop in The Mills, is a joint collaboration among HKRITA, the H&M Foundation and Novetex Textiles Limited with the support of The Mills.

The system is a mini-scale garment-to-garment production line to recycle post-consumer garments into clean and useful products. It tackles technical challenges of how each process in the entire production line should be configured for operational compatibility within a small space.

Members of the public are encouraged to bring items of their unwanted clothing to the shop, select their preferred style, and then bring a new garment home. The G2G shop opens new ways for the traditional textile and fashion industry to interface with consumers, and presents possibilities for fresh business models and a new digital fashion business.

In addition to housing the pioneering G2G Recycle System, the Mills is also a revitalisation project by Nan Fung Group transforming the textile factory into a destination for innovation, culture and learning.

As Ms Vanessa Cheung, Founder of The Mills stated, the Mills is a story of re-invention – about remembering heritage in the past and re-imagining it for the future. It is hoped that with the launch of this new retail space, consumers can better understand the changes in the global techstyle space and be inspired to be more sustainable in their lifestyles.