recycling, textile waste, fashion

Although clothing donations are already in full swing, brands are called to look at another opportunity — moving the needle on national textile waste recycling and, potentially, being right on their customer’s doorstep — in a new campaign by clothing recycling start-up Retrievr.

Formerly known as Curb my Clutter, Retrievr’s focus is bringing convenience to textile and electronics recycling — which residents in parts of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania can request with a simple text or via the company’s web app.

Retrievr handles all of the collection and sortation. Despite a brief pause in collection services through May due to stay-at-home orders from governors in New York and New Jersey, Retrievr is slated to launch its “innovative and contactless doorstep recycling solution” on June 8 in Philadelphia, as well as existing municipalities.

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates reveal recycling rates of municipal solid waste are generally higher over time, textile waste has a long way to go. According to the Council for Textile Recycling, 85 percent of clothing in the U.S. goes to landfills every year.

Retrievr is calling on fashion brands to be part of the solution by joining the first National Recycling Consortium for Fashion.

“NRCF members will be the first brands in the world to actively increase domestic clothing recycling rates. Brand participation will accelerate convenient access to clothing recycling for their existing and potential customers, to divert millions of pounds of clothes from landfills and incineration,” Rachel Kibbe, Retrievr’s director of circularity, said in a statement.

There are various levels of partnership, including doorstep collection, with the possibility for branded experiences and access to the consortium; “Fetch,” a branded button for a company’s web site to encourage customers to recycle; or basic mail-back options.

With an increased demand for recycled materials among sustainability-seeking consumers, NRCF member brands will also be connected to a “future-oriented network,” tapping into projects for innovative pre- and post-consumer recycling technologies.

Cyndi Rhoades, founder of Worn Again regenerative recycling technology, finds the work of Retrievr as “crucial.”

“As technologies like ours continue toward commercialization, new collection schemes, like Retrievr, will play a crucial role in making it easier for people to return clothing for recycling, increasing collected textile volumes, and helping to divert the mountains of textile resources going to landfill and incineration every year,” Rhoades said.

The rate of all textile collection sits at 15 percent in the U.S., according to 2017 estimates from the EPA, which Rhoades and Kibbe find far too low to meet the scale (or feedstock) these future technologies need to be victorious in replacing the use of virgin raw materials.

With around 500,000 surrounding households in Philadelphia newly able to tap into Retrievr’s services, Kibbe believes brands need to “take immediate action,” which they can do by contacting Retrievr directly.

“At a time when many people are staying in their homes and looking to declutter, the consortium will give brands an opportunity to unite to make an active environmental impact. Engaging millions of new people with a positive message, and a convenient service that comes directly to customer’s doorsteps, is important right now,” she reiterated.

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