As the cold weather begins & the holiday seasons are upon us, catalogues are arriving every day and tempting us with new fashionable clothes. However, shopping for new clothes- Fast Fashion- is generating 14 million tons of textile waste into our landfills. Textile waste can take up to 200+ years to decompose, releasing methane gas and toxic chemicals & dyes into our groundwater & soil. The average American discards approximately 80 pounds of textile waste -clothing, towels, linens, purses, shoes, etc.-each year.
Almost every kind of fabric if it is clean & dry, can be recycled, even the oldest pair of underwear, but not in curbside recycling bins. (www.greenmatters.com) Recycled textiles are sorted by type, fabric (synthetic versus natural fibers) & color, then pulled into fibers or shredded, re-spun into yarn to be woven, or compressed into filling such as insulation. Polyester-based textiles are granulated into polyester chips which can be melted to create new fibers. Recycle Nation suggests these recycling fabric locations: GrownNYC a non-profit operating at Union Square Greenmarket & more than 50 local farmer’s markets & drop-off locations throughout NYC; East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, Oakland, CA; Western Pennsylvania Center for Creative Reuse; Quilts of Valor community chapters uses recycled fabric to make quilts for veterans; Project Linus accepts blankets & quilts for children in need.
As part of the clothing Circular Revolution, TakeBackBag has developed a program with Bombas & ForDays that recycles old clothes for in-store credit. By purchasing a $20 a 24” x 24” bag made of 100% recycled polyester (which will be recycled again), filling it with 10 pounds of clean & dry textiles, placing on a pre-paid shipping label and mailing this REDUCE, REUSE, RECYLE, REDUCE bag, you will receive a $10 credit with Bombas.
Patagonia is committed to the clothing circular economy. Their clothing made is from recycled material & they accept all Patagonia items to be returned for recycling. They launched Worn Wear, an online platform where one can buy, trade, or sell second-hand Patagonia goods.
Another ethical brand that supports textile sustainability, Levi Strauss creates jeans that are 100% recyclable. In response to the apparel industry’s over-consumption crisis, they are committed to sourcing high quality products that are produced responsibility, using less water to create & that last longer. Their partnership with Blue Jeans Go Green has developed a program recycles jeans into new items, diverting 2100+ tons of denim from landfills.
Vetta takes the ethical clothing business to the next level. Their factories are 70% solar powered, their packaging is recycled & recyclable, and their clothing made from sustainable fabric & organic cotton & “dead stock fabric”- leftover fabric made from landfill textiles. They have a family run factory in NYC & their sweaters are knit in LA. Vetta encourages their customers to buy a “lean timeless collection” and sell, donate or recycle their clothing. Focused on sustainability since its onset, Urban Outfitters offers upcycled & repurposed & remade clothing, it’s a fully recycled line of clothes. They are known as an ethical business model, part of the circular economy.
Ecoalf produces their clothing from used fishing nets, plastic bottles, coffee grounds. Their mission is “to create the first generation of recycled products with the same quality and design as non-recycled products.” By reducing consumption of natural resources, Ecoalf has removed over 500 tons of waste from the ocean floor & recycled over 120 million plastic bottles.
North Face developed Clothes the Loop program, a program that accepts & sends clothing & shoes to Soles4Souls, creating sustainable jobs in recycling clothing & shoes saving approximately 95,000 pounds of clothing & footwear from landfills.
As part of “In the loop, out of the landfill” recycling program, Madewell has developed a unique partnership with Habitat for Humanity and Blue Jeans Go Green where donated jeans are recycled into housing insulation, pet beds & food & pharmaceutical packaging, and saving 415 tons from landfills & recycling 830,700 pairs of jeans.
But back to my stack of Fashion design catalogues calling for my attention…. ThredUP sells 55,000 brands of clothing. Their mission, “Inspiring a new generation to think secondhand first”. They decided the best way to propel the clothing sustainable movement forward was to join forces with the fashion industry. ThredUP teamed up with fashion designer Zero Waste Daniel to create an upcycled collection made exclusively from fabric scraps & secondhand clothing. They are an online consignment & thrift store where you can find your favorite brands & find amazing deals. To do my part in helping solve the fashion waste crisis, I took the time to check out thredUP.com. It’s amazing! Moving to Circular Fashion, shopping secondhand, buying a used item instead of a new item is possible and easy.
Join the Clothing Circular Economy by shopping with intention & standing for sustainability.
Thanks to Evie Hudak (BPW Colorado President) for her shout out to our committee, “I want to learn about textiles.”
By: Marikay Shellman, Chair, NFBPWC Environment and Sustainable Development Committee (2022-2024)
Every member of the ESD Committee contributed to this article for our magazine: Sue Oser, Daneene Monroe Rusnak, Megan Shellman Rickard & Laurie Dameron
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