[Outside of fabulous photos, parties, people, and sales, the
fashion capital also produces world-class waste. ]
[https://portside.org/] 

 FASHION IS QUIETLY A MAJOR FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY—COULD A SUSTAINABLE
REVOLUTION BE AROUND THE CORNER?  
[https://portside.org/2019-09-14/fashion-quietly-major-fossil-fuel-industry-could-sustainable-revolution-be-around-corner]


 

 Valerie Vande Panne 
 September 4, 2019
Independent Media Institute [https://independentmediainstitute.org] 

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 _ Outside of fabulous photos, parties, people, and sales, the fashion
capital also produces world-class waste. _ 

 Manhattan Store for Fabscrap, Fabscrap 

 

New York City is the fashion capital of the world. Its streets are
peppered with influencers on Instagram photoshoots, its fashion week
parties are annual events everyone vies to attend (but never eats at),
and its sample sales are so exclusive you need an invitation to
attend.

Outside of fabulous photos, parties, people, and sales, the fashion
capital also produces world-class waste. How to deal with it is
something more and more of fashion’s titans are talking about. And
they are increasingly turning to the nation’s biggest solution
provider: FabScrap [https://fabscrap.org/].

Part recycler, part re-user, part industry savior, at three years old,
the nonprofit has grown at a pace any brand would envy, working with
nearly 400 fashion brands in New York City alone.

It works pretty simply: Fashion houses receive bags from FabScrap,
which they fill and FabScrap picks up and sorts, either recycling or
reusing it, giving it away or selling it at its new store in Manhattan
[https://fabscrap.org/contact], near the Fashion Institute of
Technology (FIT).

Under New York City law, if your commercial waste is more than 10
[https://fabscrap.org/] percent [https://fabscrap.org/] textile, it
must be recycled [https://fabscrap.org/]. Globally, nearly 75
[https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/news/wearnext-make-fashion-circular-joins-forces-with-city-of-new-york-and-fashion-industry-to-tackle-clothing-waste]
percent
[https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/news/wearnext-make-fashion-circular-joins-forces-with-city-of-new-york-and-fashion-industry-to-tackle-clothing-waste]
of materials used to produce clothing are sen
[https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/news/wearnext-make-fashion-circular-joins-forces-with-city-of-new-york-and-fashion-industry-to-tackle-clothing-waste]t
[https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/news/wearnext-make-fashion-circular-joins-forces-with-city-of-new-york-and-fashion-industry-to-tackle-clothing-waste]
to a landfill or destroyed. Less than 1
[https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/news/wearnext-make-fashion-circular-joins-forces-with-city-of-new-york-and-fashion-industry-to-tackle-clothing-waste]
percent
[https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/news/wearnext-make-fashion-circular-joins-forces-with-city-of-new-york-and-fashion-industry-to-tackle-clothing-waste]
of old clothing is actually used to make new clothing
[https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/news/wearnext-make-fashion-circular-joins-forces-with-city-of-new-york-and-fashion-industry-to-tackle-clothing-waste].

Despite the city law, for many years there was no convenient or easy
way to recycle textiles, and reams of fabric scrap and trim didn’t
really fit with the second-hand store model.

The industry churns through swatches, samples, reams, trims, patches,
yarns, and more, and _a lot_ of waste is produced. Another unfortunate
byproduct is guilt: The industry has stories of people hoarding scraps
out of guilt of not wanting to throw them away.

So, Jessica Schreiber founded FabScrap [https://fabscrap.org/], the
world’s first and so far only fashion industry recycling warehouse.

Sixty percent of what FabScrap takes in is reused—much of it
un-recyclable. For example, spandex and elastane aren’t fibers.
They’re additives _to_ the fiber. In the recycling shredding
process, these additives melt and destroy the shredding machine.
“It’s really problematic,” says Schreiber.

Many textiles that have petroleum-derived products in them, including
spandex, acrylic, and polyester, are difficult, if not impossible, to
recycle. (Ninety-eight million tons of oil
[https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/publications/A-New-Textiles-Economy_Full-Report_Updated_1-12-17.pdf]were
[https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/publications/A-New-Textiles-Economy_Full-Report_Updated_1-12-17.pdf]
used in the textile industry in 2015
[https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/publications/A-New-Textiles-Economy_Full-Report_Updated_1-12-17.pdf].
By 2050, that number is expected to be 300 million.)

FabScrap takes those textiles in, and some of it is then sold online,
in scrap packs, and in one-pound packs sorted by color—all has 1
percent or more of spandex. “Those scraps are popular,” says
Schreiber. “The smaller pieces tend to be the pieces with spandex.
It draws attention that there needs to be more solutions.”

Of the fabric they receive, says Schreiber, 40 percent is recycled.
“So far this year, we’ve shredded 46,000 pounds” of textiles.

While they separate out 100 percent cotton scrap that gets reused, the
smaller pieces will get shredded.

For fashion students, home sewers, quilters, and artists, FabScrap is
a gold mine of high-quality fabric at dollar store prices. For the
designers who are starting out, it’s a huge resource.

“Our goal is to give away as much fabric as we sell,” says
Schreiber. “If there is a non-profit needing fabric, we’ll give
them what they need.”

Schreiber’s background is in waste management, previously working
with New York’s Re-FashioNYC program
[https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/downloads/pdf/promotional-materials/re-fashionyc-brochure-re-fa-f.pdf]
where she learned about the fashion industry and realized the thrift
store model really didn’t work for it.

The sheer value of really beautiful material that would go to
landfills for slight blemishes, including full cowhides, interesting
patches, and fabric with interesting patterns and designs, shocked
her.

One piece FabScrap received as waste has 24k gold thread woven in, a
piece now framed and on display on Schreiber’s desk.

Schreiber does see a growing concern about the fashion industry’s
impact on people and the planet. People want to feel good about what
they’re doing, she says, and the consumer is starting to ask
questions. People, she says, want more information about the clothing
or textile they are purchasing.

“A thing that was really surprising for me was that people were
really interested in what we were doing, but weren’t sewers or
makers. We’ve had over 3,000 people volunteer. I never could have
imagined how interested people would be. This issue affects everybody.
I’ve been just wowed by the number of people who want to get
involved.”

For people outside the industry, there is a growing awareness of zero
waste [https://tinyurl.com/ycjfm3tv] as a lifestyle, and that’s
where people want to do more, she says. Volunteering with FabScrap is
a unique way for people to give back. “They might feel helpless, but
this is a direct way to contribute to that change behind the
scenes.”

A lot of companies also understand there is a problem, she adds. They
are beginning to measure it, and figure out how to make the most
impactful changes.

To the fashion industry, FabScrap inspires the companies to think
about the types of materials they’re sourcing from different mills.
“The goal is that over time the brands will produce less design
waste,” she says, while noting that the more a company realizes what
FabScrap can do, the more the brands give them more.

“I think at first there is a relief, that there is a better way to
manage this and not feel bad,” she says.

She says companies will start by giving FabScrap scrap. “Then we get
yardage, sample yardage and unused rolls. And then we take leather,
yarn and trim, so we see more material coming our way instead of
less.”

“Because of the way our model works, I think they’ll start to
reduce in terms of design waste after the excitement of finding a
place to recycle and reuse wears off.”

Then, she says, comes the education of helping companies reduce the
scrap in the first place. FabScrap incentivizes the reduction by
charging to remove the waste.

With the vast majority of textile manufacturing being done overseas,
what’s happening in fashion’s capital is only the beginning.

Additionally, with so much of it unrecyclable, there is a long way for
the industry to go.

“We can’t recycle spandex,” she says, so by educating companies
on what they can recycle, brands are starting to consider alternative
fibers or avoid spandex all together. One hundred percent cotton or
100 percent polyester are the most recyclable, she says. “So much
fashion waste happens in the design phase, so that education has a
trickle-back effect into the industry. I think we have the most impact
internationally when we are able to share with the brand what the
potential usage for fabric is at end of life.”

It’s basically all about education.

“I think fashion is in a crisis moment, where it’s become more
disposable than it needs to be,” says Schreiber. “Clothing prices
have come way down. People can buy with trends even though the
environmental component isn’t thought of.”

Here are tips for reducing your own fashion waste:

1. Stop buying plastic and other synthetic or petroleum-based
clothing.

2. Invest in pieces that last longer.

3. Learn to tailor and mend, or find someone in your community who can
and work with them so your clothing can be part of your wardrobe for a
longer period of time.

4. Read the labels on the clothing you want to buy. Often a product
marketed as “Made with 100 percent organic cotton” is really an
organic cotton-spandex-acrylic-polyester blend.

6. Learn how to properly care for your clothing (and blankets and
sheets and curtains, etc.) so it lasts and is meaningful to you.
Proper cleaning, spot removal, and drying techniques can keep your
textiles looking good for longer.

7. Learn about the regenerative fiber
[https://valerievandepanne.com/its-time-to-meet-regenerative-fiber/]
movement of local producers of natural fibers, including wool and
hemp, and support a co-op or local business making and selling
clothing, textiles, winter wear, and more using natural, locally made
fibers.

_Valerie Vande Panne is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at
Local Peace Economy
[https://independentmediainstitute.org/local-peace-economy/], a
project of the Independent Media Institute. She is an independent
journalist whose work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, In
These Times, Politico, and many other publications.Valerie Vande Panne
is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Local Peace Economy
[https://independentmediainstitute.org/local-peace-economy/], a
project of the Independent Media Institute. She is an independent
journalist whose work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, In
These Times, Politico, and many other publications._

_This article was produced by Local Peace Economy
[https://independentmediainstitute.org/local-peace-economy/], a
project of the Independent Media Institute._

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