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Fast-fashion retailer rolls out high-tech recycling bins


H&M has a “smart” new way to encourage shoppers to recycle their unwanted clothing.

H&M is using innovation to jump-start its garment recycling service. The retailer, which launched the initiative globally in 2013, accepts any brand of unwanted clothes across all of its stores. Donations are either reused in new collections, recycled into textile fibers and applied to new materials or products beyond apparel, or are sold as second-hand merchandise, according to the company’s website.

The fast-fashion retailer is now raising the bar on this initiative with the introduction of “smart” recycling bins that not only accept donations, but also offer customers a new, engaging experience. 

The new bins, which debuted on Jan. 12 at H&M’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City, house a digital scale and feature integrated digital screens. As shoppers deposit their bag of unwanted clothing into the bin, the integrated scale tallies the donation. In real-time, the digital screen displays the weight of the donation, along with a message thanking shoppers for “making a difference.” 

The screen then displays a QR code that customers can scan for a 15% discount coupon that can be used on a future purchase in-store or online. The code also directs shoppers to a website outlining H&M’s sustainability efforts and goals, as well as how their donations make a difference. For example, for every 50 lbs. of donated clothing, H&M plants a tree through its not-for-profit partner, One Tree Planted. The fast-fashion retailer has a goal of collecting 5 million lbs. of apparel and plant 100,000 trees by the end of 2020, according to the company.

“This project quantifies the [sustainability] impact our customers are having in real-time,” Alex Bilbao, business development project manager, North America, H&M, told Chain Store Age. 

Two smart collection boxes are positioned at the cash wraps in the Fifth Avenue store’s women’s and men’s departments. H&M plans to add two high-tech bins to flagship stores located in Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. By the end of 2020, there will be 16 bins available across all eight locations.

H&M will expand the initiative to stores overseas in 2021, Bilbao reported.

To learn how other retailers are adopting innovations, redefining store spaces, and repurposing square footage to drive customer convenience, register for SPECS 2020, March 15-17, at the Gaylord Texan in Dallas. Click here to register.

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