Following sustainability-focused initiatives such as clothing recycling and their latest biodegradable line of baby clothes, global retailer H&M has now announced a program that gives us the recycled button. In the future, all H&M Group products such as shirts, blouses, skirts, among others, which are produced in India, will have these particular buttons partly made from post-consumer recycled plastic collected by waste pickers waste in Bengaluru.
This launch is part of the four-year initiative of the H&M Foundation, Saamuhika Shakti (which supports informal waste pickers in Bengaluru), which has partnered with companies such as social enterprise Hasiru Dala Innovations and WaterAid India, among others. Maria Bystedt, Head of Strategy, Stockholm-based H&M Foundation, says Saamuhika Shakti has reached around 20,000 waste pickers and their family members (as of March 2022) and reached 2.6 million people from the general population of Bengaluru as part of the perception change campaign around waste pickers.
A cotton shirt with recycled buttons
Last mile tracking
Explaining the inner workings of the project, Shekar Prabhakar, co-founder and CEO of Hasiru Dala Innovations, says that once H&M saw the benefit of engaging with his organization in terms of additional social impact for waste pickers waste and being backed by a fair trade guarantee from the World Fair Trade Organization, the case was simple. “They wanted the assurance of a reliable supply of PET flakes of consistent quality with waste traceability. The challenge was to determine a fixed price throughout the six-month season they are working on, while plastic waste behaves like a commodity linked to oil prices. We were able to agree on a pricing strategy that worked for both H&M and HDI,” he says.
Shekar Prabhakar, Co-Founder and CEO, Hasiru Dala Innovations
The buttons are traceable to the source of PET waste, worker names, social security, wages and working conditions at the collection center. HDI is currently piloting a blockchain-enabled software solution to enhance traceability. Short-term benefits for “waste-picking entrepreneurs”, as Prabhakar likes to call them, include a fair price, immediate payment by bank transfer and assured collection. “Long-term impact includes the integration of waste pickers and informal waste workers into the circular economy supply chain by accessing end-user markets, business interest in working with them, among others,” he said.
A worker packing the buttons
Aside from the eco-quotient, since recycled plastic comes in various shades and shapes, was maintaining button uniformity a challenge? The clothing giant claims that the color does not vary from batch to batch, and they prepare a batch with the same color and the shade can be adjusted to the previous batch by adjusting the amounts of color pigments. “There are actually no limitations in terms of size, color, etc., so in this case there is no difference with other buttons,” says Daniel Baumann, product quality specialist at HM Assortment Support & Development, explaining that the internal system The design teams of the various brands of the H&M group have chosen the look of the buttons for the designs as they do for all garments.