Americans throw away 25bn pounds of clothing, shoes, accessories and other textiles every year. While some of it gets resold at thrift stores or recycled, most of it – 85%, in fact – goes straight to the dump. Nearly 13m tons of textiles were dumped into landfills in the US in 2013, the most recent year for which there is data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
A new venture called the Renewal Workshop aims to reduce some of that waste by repairing clothes that customers have returned to stores as well as items that are damaged during manufacturing. While it’s difficult to find current estimates on just how big of a problem this is, clothing makers toss out around 10%-12% of garments with simple flaws such as broken zippers, according to a 2006 estimate from the book, Apparel Manufacturing: Sewn Product Analysis. By correcting light damage on clothing that ordinarily wouldn’t make it to sales racks – think jackets with ripped linings, pants with holes and stained shirts – the Renewal Workshop hopes to head off the inevitable garbage dump.
The project, which launched in June, has attracted more than $1m in venture funding from VTF Capital, based in Las Vegas and San Francisco, and Closed Loop Ventures in New York. “They’re building a whole new infrastructure for a whole new phase of life in the apparel industry,” said Jen Taylor, brand manager and director of creative development for Mountain Khakis, a Jackson Hole, Wyoming-based outdoor apparel company that recently partnered with the workshop.
The workshop is the latest in a number of secondhand clothing websites that have popped up in recent years, including San Francisco-based thredUp, which allows customers to buy and sell used clothing online and donates or recycles the items that don’t pass muster. Twice, a similar Bay Area-based company for buying and selling secondhand clothes, was acquired by eBay in 2015.
At first glance, the Renewal Workshop may seem like a glorified tailoring operation. But co-founder Jeff Denby, who previously co-founded Pact Apparel, a Boulder, Colorado-based company that makes sustainable, organic cotton clothes, said the business is based on volume. The company will take garments from sustainability-focused partner companies such as prAna, Indigenous, Toad & Co, and Ibex, who pay a membership fee to the Renewal Project. The clothes are sorted into problem groups, such as those that need repairs on zippers or pockets, and the workshop makes the repairs in batches. “Instead of being a repair center, which is not very efficient, we’re acting like a production facility,” said Denby.
To read the full story, visit https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/aug/07/clothes-recycling-second-hand-waste-landfill-textile.