I recently received a unique interview request from a group of 11 and 12 year old girls from Floral Park who are participating in a challenge called Trash Trek sponsored by the First Lego League. I was only introduced to this organization through these inspiring girls. From FLL’s website “In the 2015 FIRST® LEGO® League TRASH TREKSM Challenge, 290,000 children ages 9 to 16 from over 80 countries will explore the fascinating world of what you throw away. From collection, to sorting, to smart production and reuse, there is more to your garbage than meets the eye.” Just fro the questions these young ladies asked, I can tell the future is in good hands!
Here’s the interview:
Alyssa: What is your favorite part of running your business?
Being such an integrated part of the NYC green community. People know about us and have an expectation that we will be there for collections every week. We love living up to those expectations.
Faith: How did you choose recycling textiles as a way of raising money?
One of my good friends from Chile runs a sorting facility out of New Jersey. He told me about the opportunities in used clothing collections and i was intrigued.
Kaitlyn: Were there any conflicts or obstacles to overcome when you started creating this company? If so, what were they?
One of the biggest obstacles for us has been that we are not a non-profit. When it comes to clothing “donation” people have the perception that they are giving to a charity. We provide a terrific service and dedicate a portion of the proceeds to charity, but we are not one ourselves.
Myrah: How can we improve textile recycling?
For me the answer is always about convenience. We must continually educate people and create convenient ways for them to dispose of their textiles.
Jennifer: If your partner was not hurt, would you still have started this business?
GREAT QUESTION! To be honest, the answer is probably no. This started out as a little project in 2004 which grew into a business strictly due to need and demand.
Kaitlyn: Is the Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn location your only location? Have you been there since the beginning of your business?
This is where our office is but we collect in over 200 residential buildings, 31 weekly greenmarkets and hundreds of one-off community drives.
Alyssa: Are you thinking about expanding to sorting textiles?
I have been pressured to sort the textiles and it is compelling. However, i personally dont believe my strength is in sorting. My strength is in marketing and creating unique partnerships that allow for greatest volume to be kept from landfills. If someone wanted to partner with me and do more sorting, i would be open to the idea
Caitlin: How did you get money to start this business?
Me and my two partners put in the start up capital from money we earned in our jobs before we started Wearables. We didnt start with that much, only $50,000. Which may sound like a lot but isnt so much to start a company. All of the growth from the company has come from organic growth whcih i am very proud of.
Myrah: What is the value of different textiles?
Used clothing is a commodity. It is subject to the laws of supply and demand which can change the proce at any time. IT is the 50% of the collections that is re-used as second hand clothing which drives the the whole recycling industry. The rags and materials that are shredded are the byproducts of this process and arent valued anywhere near the value of reusable clothing.
Jennifer: What is your goal for expanding the business?
I would like to continue making startegic partnerships that expand our reach. Partnerships with schools, municipalities and corporations are some areas that we are focused. We have just launched a campaign called #socialshoeproject which we hope will lead to growth in both our shoe/sneaker collections and also lead to greater awareness in general of our overall business and goals.
Caitlin: How many pounds of textiles do you need to pick up from a building or a greenmarket to be efficient?
Building and greenmarkets are two different models. We like to infuse our routes with a mixture of both and even adding a community drive to the mix. What’s important is density of collections and trying not to lose too much time to traffic or other items that can mess with logisitics. The greenmarkets are a way of having a dense collection since the community brings the clothing and shoes to us, so we can service a lot of people in one location.
Kaitlyn: How many pounds of textiles more do you hope to collect?
I would like to collect as much as needed to keep it all from going in landfills. Is that realistic? Probably not but we hope that Wearable Collections impact goes beyond simply the clothing we collect. We are active in creating educational and convenient campaigns that not only impact the amount of clothing diverted but have also been models for composting and electronic waste.
Faith: Where do you send the textiles for sorting?
We work with several sorting facilities in the tri-state area.
Kaitlyn: Where do you store your textiles?
We move the textiles almost as quickly as they are collected.