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Fighting Commercial Waste with FABSCRAP

For a while now, many of us have been striving to make changes in our daily lives that promote sustainability: we donate or recycle our clothing, we’ve stopped shopping at fast fashion stores, and we make an effort to buy ethically and sustainably made products. These are all wonderful things that we can and should be doing, but did you know that for every pound of clothing that an individual throws away, the company that made it throws away forty? Forty pounds of waste that will end up in a landfill! That means that our individual efforts toward sustainability don’t make much headway if we’re not addressing the even greater problem of commercial production waste. Thankfully, there is an organization that is doing just that and I had the privilege of conducting an interview with them. I’m very excited to introduce you to FABSCRAP!

FABSCRAP is a non-profit organization that works with the fashion and design industry to keep textiles out of landfills in a myriad of ways. They collect unwanted, unused, or unneeded textiles that would otherwise go to waste and sort, recycle, or turn them into “shoddy,” a fluffy, practical material made up of shredded fabric that can be used to make felt, fill mattresses, or be turned into yarn. They also receive whole garments or reams of fabric that they sell at thrift store prices or give away in exchange for volunteer hours. Basically, they collect everything that a fashion company is trying to get rid of, and they find it a new home in whatever way they can. Since being founded by Jessica Schreiber in 2016, FABSCRAP has already saved approximately 600,000 pounds of textile waste from landfills!

As I mentioned before, commercial waste is a way bigger problem than most people realize, and FABSCRAP wants to help consumers realize that the most impactful thing we can do is fight for change on the company’s end of things. When I asked Rachael, an employee of FABSCRAP, what concerns her most about the fashion industry right now, she replied, “Brands want to get in on sustainability but they don’t really want to do the work. There’s a lot of ‘greenwashing’ basically.” FABSCRAP provides brands with an actual way to operate more sustainably through their donation service, and they also educate brands and consumers about what else can be done to create a more circular economy.

Rachael explained more about striving for a “circular economy,” when I asked her what she would most want designers to know or change: “I would want them to put more thought into or be open to changing their fabric choices. A lot of people don’t realize that synthetic fibers don’t degrade. The chemicals that are used to make them can also lead to air, water, and soil pollution. I’d want them to explore different fabric options, especially when it comes to Spandex because it cannot be shredded, it just melts. We need to think more about the ‘end of life’ when selecting every stage we should be thinking about where the product will end up long before it gets there.”

She responded similarly when I asked her what she would most want consumers to know or change: “I think we just need to be intentional and selective about what we’re purchasing and then how we’re handling it at the end of its life with us.” It all comes back to circularity!

It can often be daunting and a little discouraging to learn these dirty secrets about the fashion industry for the first time, so I asked Rachael about what gives her hope in the fashion industry right now: “Definitely young people who are working in fashion or preparing to enter a career in fashion! I love talking to students, they’re always excited to learn more about sustainability, and they’re going to be a really important part of the solution in the coming years. Change can sometimes be generational; young people who are committed are going to make a significant impact in the future!”

If you are one of those people, young or old, who is passionate about sustainability and striving to change the fashion industry, then FABSCRAP could use your help! There are several ways to get involved, but my favorite is by volunteering at their warehouse in Brooklyn. Volunteers sort through bags of donations and separate fabrics by content, removing any metal or paper that might be attached so that they can be shredded and turned into shoddy. Veronica and I had the chance to do it together and it was so fun, rewarding, and honestly therapeutic! On top of all that, we each got to take home five pounds of fabric for our efforts!

If volunteering in person is not possible for you right now, they also run online workshops that are educational and fun. They’re free to register with a suggested donation and are attended by people all over the world! You can find them here.

One of the most exciting and rewarding things about diving deeper into the world of sustainability and fashion is that it has introduced us to so many different and amazing people and organizations that each do their part to make the world a better and more beautiful place. Thankfully there isn’t only one way to make a difference; we each have a part to play and we hope you can be inspired by the huge role FABSCRAP is playing to reduce commercial waste!

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