As the years change, it’s easy to get hung up on the ideas of what we can do to better ourselves. For a company it’s no different. We reflect upon the happenings of the past year and try to project where we see our industry going in the future. 2017 was a fascinating year for so many reasons. For every breakdown we had there was a breakthrough. The amount of information we need to process on a daily basis is truly mind-boggling. The same can be said about the Fashion Industry. It has been a year with the mainstreaming of the knowledge of how destructive the industry is to our environment. As this knowledge has seeped into the public conversation, there has been an explosion of innovations which we believe will create a tipping point for a cleaner and circular industry in the upcoming years.
All of this tumult has led Wearable Collections to a lot of introspection. We are very proud of our accomplishments: Being the first company to scale up in-building residential clothing recycling, diverting 2 million lbs of clothing, shoes and textiles annually from landfills, partnering with GrowNYC to provide a comprehensive collection system at greenmarkets throughout NYC on a weekly basis and donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to charity since our founding in 2004. We have been flattered to see the model of our programs and services emulated by organizations within our industry and beyond into other recycling industries. Everything we do is with an eye towards pushing the ticket and proving concepts that haven’t yet been demonstrated. While this has brought us accolades and media attention at times, as a front-end collection company focused on educating the public on the need to recycle clothes, we have often come up against the limitations of the clothing recycling industry in general. In 2004, we said “we accept everything” and the public loved this and the demand for the commodity of used clothing supported it. Ten years later, a strong dollar put pressure on the commodity which is predominantly exported and we had to scale back our messaging to “Please bring us only reusable clothes and shoes” (trust us – we still get everything!) This is who we are, and this is who we will always be! We believe that the only way we can progress is through transparency. We want to thank you, our partners and community for understanding. There is a component of waste management that is formulaic and to understand the nuances of clothing recycling is to get a clearer picture of how other materials are handled. The biggest difference is that there is no subsidies for the clothing recycling industry, the value of the loads need to cover the cost of the collections, so this education and communication is necessary for survival.
I have often said in interviews that we are in a bridge period. While we are awakening to the damage our consumptive habits are wreaking on the environment at large there were only so many solutions in place to offset inertia. But we believe this is all about to change and are very thankful that we have been able to hang around as a company to see it happen. If you are not familiar with the idea of circular economy, I’d like to give you a brief overview taken from three bulletpoints on the Ellen Macarthur Foundation website: Design out waste and pollution – Keep products and materials in use – Regenerate natural systems. I don’t expect all of you to be following the industry as closely as we are but we do want you to know that there is reason for optimism and a lot of great people working on solutions. Rest assured that Wearable Collections is one of them. In 2018, we will be taking a deeper dive in to the loads we collect and connecting dots to maximize the reuse value of every component of our stream. We will be engaging people from a multitude of industries: fashion designers, artists, upcyclers, technologists, marketers, universities, industrial designers, finance to figure out some solutions in a very New York way. To stop looking at our loads as waste and to only see them as valuable resources. Through our exploration we plan on not only having an impact on our company but also on the clothing recycling industry at large. Stay tuned! We are excited for this phase of our journey and welcome all of you along.