H&M Saves Over 1.5 Million Plastic And Paper Bags In One Year | WWF Malaysia

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H&M Saves Over 1.5 Million Plastic And Paper Bags In One Year

Support WWF-Malaysia in freshwater and ecosystem conservation effort in Malaysia

Photo: Dhiya Shafiqah Ridzuan / WWF-Malaysia

At H&M, we are committed to lead the change towards a circular and climate positive fashion future. With over 1.5 million pieces of plastic and paper bags saved in a year, take a look at the impact of H&M Malaysia’s Choose To Reuse initiative as it celebrates its one year anniversary in Malaysia.

Since the launch of H&M’s Choose To Reuse initiative in Malaysia in July last year, over 1.5 million pieces of plastic and paper bags are saved in H&M stores.

As part of the initiative, customers are charged RM0.20 for the use of every plastic or paper shopping bag across all stores in Malaysia. Proceeds collected from the purchase of plastic or paper shopping bags are donated to WWF-Malaysia’s project to safeguard freshwater resources and ecosystems in the Klang Valley, Setiu Wetlands in Terengganu and Sarawak.

In Malaysia, 97% of water used for domestic, industry and agriculture are sourced from surface water such as streams and rivers. Pollution remains a key threat to water resources in Malaysia, resulting in disruption to water supply in the Klang Valley where Malaysia’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur and adjoining cities and towns in Selangor are located. In Sarawak, communities depend on clean water from the rivers for paddy fields and consumption. Improper waste disposal, the use of pesticide and erosion of riverbanks remain as major contributors to pollution.

The Setiu Wetlands serve vital ecological functions in maintaining fishery resource, coastal protection and flood control in Malaysia. Yet, existing waste recycling facilities and public awareness remain lacking in the rural area of Setiu.

H&M and WWF-Malaysia’s partnership is aimed at understanding the current level of awareness about waste issues and management, devising stakeholder engagement and community outreach programmes to educate and promote actions on solid waste reduction in the Klang Valley and Setiu as well as supporting riverbank restoration efforts in Long Semadoh, Sarawak.

“It has always been our goal to give our customers a platform to join us in our sustainable actions, and we are heartened by the tremendous participation of our customers in H&M’s Choose To Reuse initiative. We are also excited to see how the initiative, aimed at reducing plastic consumption in Malaysia, can have an even greater impact in conserving vital freshwater resources and ecosystems in Malaysia, through our collaboration with WWF-Malaysia,” says Marian Dang, Sustainability Manager of South East Asia, H&M.

According to Sophia Lim, WWF-Malaysia CEO / Executive Director, “Partnerships with major corporations like H&M is one of the key components which can affect real change and progress in conservation. It is also a good opportunity to show how industries can work together with us to conserve the environment. Furthermore, the responsibility of providing solutions to environmental problems have always been dependent on governments and international organisations, and we have come to realise that businesses, especially major corporations like H&M, can be a strong positive force for environmental sustainability. Businesses and the public need to understand the profound effect we’ve had on the planet and be involved in the solutions.”

“Since the partnership started, numerous successful initiatives have been carried out with the communities, municipal councils and youths from Setiu and the Klang Valley. The objectives of these initiatives, apart from engaging with the local communities, are to raise awareness on the importance of freshwater conservation and promote a change in daily lifestyles, ultimately reducing generation of solid waste and improving solid waste management, including through increasing recycling efforts,” Lim said.

Public Awareness Assessment

H&M Malaysia’s Choose To Reuse donation from the past year contributed to WWF-Malaysia’s research to assess the level of awareness of solid waste issues and management in both Setiu Wetlands and the Klang Valley. Surveys, conducted in both project sites, provided vital baseline information to strategise awareness, educational and engagement interventions.

Survey findings revealed that residents in the rural area of Setiu Wetlands have lower awareness of the detrimental impact of improper disposal of solid waste and over 60% surveyed do not bring their own shopping bags to shop. While awareness of the adverse impact of improper solid waste management is high among the urban community of the Klang Valley, survey findings reflected that knowledge gaps between recyclable and non-recyclable items exist among residents.

Stakeholder Engagement and Community Outreach Programmes in Setiu

Part of the proceeds from H&M Malaysia’s Choose To Reuse initiative funded a series of local awareness initiatives in Setiu, including the district’s National Recycling Day, jointly organised by WWF-Malaysia and the Setiu District Council (MDS). Participants included the local village community, government agencies and students from primary, secondary and tertiary schools in Setiu attended the event, where they took part in activities such as educational games, 3R (Reduce, Recycling, Reuse) exhibitions and workshops, sharing sessions, and an upcycling fashion show, ‘Thrashion’.

H&M also supported WWF-Malaysia in the hosting of a competition among local F&B operators in Setiu to examine alternative food preparation and packaging methods to minimise plastic waste and promote green practices among the Setiu community. The competition saw the participation of 21 F&B operators comprising local communities who represented their villages.

Empowering Setiu in Waste Reduction

A portion of the H&M Malaysia’s Choose To Reuse donation will be used to install recycling facilities in high-traffic locations in Setiu, such as a village community hall and morning market within the Setiu municipality area. Beyond promoting recycling practices by making recycling convenient for the local community, these facilities which will be managed and operated by the identified local community groups are expected to contribute supplementary income opportunities for residents of Setiu.

To reduce the use of single-use plastics and eliminate plastic pollution, H&M also supports WWF-Malaysia in the implementation of the MyBalasBag reward programme in Setiu – an initiative that encourages locals to use reusable shopping bags in exchange for redeemable store credits to be used in participating stores.

River Clean Up in Klang Valley and River Restoration in Sarawak

H&M will also support WWF-Malaysia in a series of river clean-ups in the Klang Valley - including key rivers that provide vital water resources such as Sungai Selangor, Sungai Klang and Sungai Langat – to help eliminate solid waste pollutants and improve the river condition. In collaboration with local conservation groups and relevant authorities, solid waste audits on the thrash removed from the rivers to identify and quantify the thrash types as well as replanting of suitable trees to enhance the aesthetic and recreational values of the rivers will also be carried out.

H&M’s Choose To Reuse donation will also be used to support bioengineering restoration initiatives for riverbanks in Sarawak’s Long Semadoh, including conducting regular aerial assessment surveys, usage of locally-sourced natural materials for the structures and installation costs. The river restoration effort is expected to protect at least 10km of riverbanks from erosion and around 87 paddy fields measuring 11.74 hectares from damage, preventing the loss of income and ensuring food security among local communities.

Choose To Reuse is one of H&M's several in-store sustainability initiatives where customers can join in the journey towards a sustainable fashion future. Other in-store sustainability efforts include garment collecting and sustainability exhibitions to raise greater awareness to and promote recycling and waste reduction among customers.

Learn more about H&M’s sustainability strategy at hm.com.

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