When it comes to sustainability, we often think about what we can do at a micro level, what actions we can change to reduce our textile waste. Ever wonder about the textile waste by fashion brands? In the design process, tons of samples and scraps are thrown out to the landfills by brands. These fabric scraps are wasteful and toxic when thrown away in landfills, they release hazardous chemicals like methane, CO2 and PFCs. As stated by Greenpeace “an estimated 400 billion square meters of textiles are produced annually, of which 60 billion square meters are left on the cutting room floor.” This damage caused by the industry has been a leading concern.
The solution to this macro scale of commercial textile waste is Fabscrap. Fabscrap is a non-profit textile recycling organization aim to help companies recycle their waste in a sustainable manner. With the ease of Fabscraps service the companies comply with the enforced standards of New York City recycling laws and the scraps are sorted to be used by creative makers looking to up-cycle and reuse.
Based at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Brooklyn, New York both Jessica Schreider (founder), Camille Tagle (co-partner and director of Reuse Partnerships), Annie Keating (Operations Coordinator) and the rest of the amazing fab interns and volunteers have recycled 100,000 pounds of textiles said Schreider. The organization was launched in 2016 after an early request by designers for this service. “Prior, I worked at the New York City Department of Sanitation for 5 years. During that time a few fashion brands reached out asking for this service. They had samples, headers, needing to be recycled, but these brands couldn’t recycle on their own. With 30 designers approaching me, I began to take action.” says Jessica.
The service works this way: Brands sign a service agreement. They receive two types of bags to fill. A black bag for proprietary designs, patterns or logos, and a brown bag for everything else. The scraps in the black bag plus very small scraps are shredded in New Jersey into shoddy, which is used for carpet padding and insulation. Each bag holds between 40-50 pounds. This allows them to quantify and supply their clients with an actual data report to help the companies reach their metrics of sustainable corporate responsibility. Once filled, the bags are picked up, then sorted by volunteers who are compensated with up to five pounds of fabric. “These volunteers find out about it and wanna be part of the solution.” says Tagle. Community is a key value at Fabscrap, certainly felt so after speaking with them.
I spoke with Jessica Schreiber and Camille Tagle to learn more about them and the organization. Here is what they had to share:
Can you tell me more about your co-partnership, how did it come about to merge Design Up Studio with Fabscrap in 2017?
Camille: My background is in evening wear design. After working in design and see the environmental impact, I was motivated to change what I was doing and concentrate on helping others in their sustainability efforts. I oversee retail, the reuse of fabrics and mentor interns and potential users of the fabrics we collect.
Jessica: Merging our two backgrounds together has been perfect. My experience is in waste management. Camille brings in her knowledge of fabrics and design. When we met we knew right away we wanted to work together.
Along the process of learning of the textile waste created in the fashion industry, what inspired you to change your shopping habits?
Jessica: As with everything the more you know about it, it makes it harder and harder to shop. When you know too much, it makes it too difficult. If I have to shop for something, then I shop secondhand. If there is a product I like, before buying it, I make sure the brand values align with my values. It is important have our garments circulating and refurbishing garments is a way for keeping our clothing longer. I was inspired by the book Overdress by Elizabeth L. Cline and reading about shopping consciously helps make shopping less overwhelming. The community too, meeting people in the panels and hearing their experience and advice is informative.
Camille: Because of my earlier experience in the fashion industry designing luxury evening wear I was exposed from an early start of its damages to the environment. Knowing this made me look at clothing differently. That is why helping others achieve their efforts for sustainability now hits home. More and more people wanna change their habits and making and shopping ethically further those commitments.
What are your top habits for living an eco-fashion lifestyle?
Camille: As Jessica had mentioned, refurbishing garments are a great habit. Also, buying secondhand is an excellent way of stopping clothing from landing in landfills. Much has to do with reusing and decreasing the amount of waste we produce.
Jessica: I try to avoid single use items. I bring a fork, reusable bottle of water. I also compost regularly with my husband. Living in New York, makes composting accessible. It’s pretty much taking conscious actions of cutting down on waste.
Fabscrap has become a hub for the creative community of makers, recyclers. Nearly “600 volunteers” have sorted fabrics. How do you reach out to find volunteers?
Jessica: Outreach. A lot of outreach lets us spread the word about Fabscrap. I go to local school, conferences, panels to talk about Fabscrap.
Camille: It has grown organically also. A lot of interns, volunteers; they go to their classroom tell teachers and friends, work colleagues who volunteer tell their colleagues. There are also the pop-up shops we have around New York. I believe it is the allure and excitement of knowing you can contribute to a bigger solution. These volunteers find out about it and wanna be part of the solution.
Jessica: Exactly and one great benefit of our fabrics is that we collect them from well-known brands. They serve as trend forecasting because these are the sample fabrics the brands used for their design research.
Camille: And for us it is important for people to feel at home. To be surrounded by like minded individuals drives the community, the familiarity of our intention to create a positive impact in the industry spreads the message and allows others to find out about us.
What are your projections for the future of Fabscrap? Where do you see it headed?
Jessica: The move to the new warehouse here in Brooklyn has been pretty big. Our future projection is to replicate this in the west coast. Much manufacturing is done there, it will be a great way to expand our endeavor of reducing the amount of textile waste and making these materials available for reuse.
Camille: Continuing to grow and provide our services for more people to reuse these fabrics. For us accessibility is important. We want to advance our support for sustainable fashion and provide our services for anyone, anywhere.
Of their growing 150 clients some are Eileen Fisher, Mara Hoffman, and Tracy Reese. Fabscrap has also collaborated with Zero Waste Daniel and Vestment Clothing, both source these pre-consumer fabrics to create their attractive garments. As Livia Firth has said “become an active citizen through your wardrobe.” Thanks to Fabscrap initiative, we can do so, we can follow through with our sustainable practices in a micro level with what we create and on a macro level by sourcing Fabscrap fabrics. Everyone can benefit, Fabscrap fabrics are available in their online store and you can purchase their fabrics from anywhere you are in the world. They ship internationally and if you are in New York on April 29th come join to celebrate their move to Brooklyn.
Fabscrap will be hosting a Warehouse Warming party + Fundraiser:
Sunday, April 29th, 12-4pm
at Brooklyn Army Terminal, Building B, Unit 5H-4
140 58th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11220
Written by FFM-contirbutor Kaara Henriquez.