SECONDHAND NEWS: The average New Yorker tosses 46 pounds of clothing and textiles into the trash on any given year, but they can lighten that load by recycling at 30 city Greenmarkets.
Through an ongoing partnership between Wearable Collections and GrowNYC, consumers have more recycling options. The aim is to reduce the amount of clothes that wind up in landfills, which takes its toll on taxpayers and the environment. Combined, city residents throw out 193,000 tons of textiles each year.
Interestingly, the fluctuation in foreign currencies can be seen in the recycling sector, according to Wearable Collections founder Adam Baruchowitz. Through a variety of efforts, including residential pickups in apartment buildings, his group trumpets the pros of sustainability. “With the ongoing strength of the dollar, the sorting facilities that accept Wearable Collections’ recycled apparel have become a lot stricter and much more demanding about what they accept. Eighteen months ago, they started refusing to accept scraps of any kind, or comforters, pillows and other items that they used to let slide.”
“Ultimately, there has to be a reuse or a recycling component for this stuff in order for it to be accepted,” he continued. “What I’m hearing from the sorting facilities is that they’re throwing away more stuff than they ever have before. They have to even cut that stuff out from what they’re sending to their international clients. Basically, then it gets sold to thriftlike stores and markets in these different countries, so that people have access to the same fashions that we have, at affordable prices.”
The success of Zara, H&M, Topshop and other fast-fashion retailers is also casting a shadow on the recycling sector. “The rise of fast fashion hasn’t stopped yet. That’s almost hurt the business as well, because a lot of people are recycling fast-fashion products, which aren’t made of the highest quality. And people are turning over their closets every season, if that,” Baruchowitz said.
Wearable Collections aims to use its efforts as a teaching tool. “Being in New York and tapped into the creative community, we’re approaching used-clothing collections as a means to educate people along the waste stream in general. We’re trying to build campaigns that not only collect but that also educate. It’s not necessarily pounding for poundage with us,” he said.
Through a new initiative with New York City’s Department of Education this spring, Wearable held a monthlong drive to educate students about sustainability for what it called “Earth Month.” While the two groups have worked together in the past, this was the first formal effort to promote the concept of sustainability through clothing and shoe drives. “Fashion is something people understand — kids understand the idea of hand-me-downs,” Baruchowitz said. “I consider it a gateway material. It’s a lot easier to explain how clothing and textiles are used versus plastics or glass, but it leads to that conversation.”