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.
Please follow us on Instagram and facebook. We are constantly circulating ideas and information through these platforms
Looking to act today? Go to our website and request a bin for your building, host a drive for your school or organization, or ask how we can help your company towards their circular goals.
photo credit Ryan D Matzner
An article came across my feed this weekend which caught my attention. It is understandable if you missed it amongst the whirlwind of news activity during these unsettling times. This article described an encounter one gentleman named Ryan Matzner had with discarded sneakers outside of a Nike store in Manhattan’s Soho district, left to be tossed in the garbage. While investigating the bags of what appeared to be perfectly usable sneakers, he noticed one major issue: All the sneakers had been intentionally slashed to make sure they couldn’t be worn. As the founder of Wearable Collections, a NYC based clothing and shoe recycling company, this article brought to light a practice that has been bothering me for years.
I am not writing this to bash Nike because I know they are not alone in protecting their brand by this method. I also believe Nike has made great strides in bringing transparency to their supply chain and taken on a leadership with sustainability initiatives and membership in the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. What I do find troublesome is that the company who internally developed their own shoe recycling initiative – Nike Reuse a Shoe – doesn’t have built in logistics to handle these sneakers in a better way than tossing them into landfills. If this is happening at Nike, you can only imagine what is going on at other apparel companies across the world.
Nike, better than almost any company, knows what goes into the production of a pair of sneakers. From a labor perspective, from an energy and materials perspective and from a distribution perspective. They have done a tremendous amount of research to figure out the environmental impact and have done a great job of reducing their negative impact. So how can a company so well versed on the issues of sustainability be slashing and tossing it’s own product?
Operating a clothing and shoe recycling company based out of the fashion capital of the world, we have seen our fair share of slashed goods. Probably enough to dress a small country. We are constantly in conversations with apparel companies who want to discard unusable merchandise properly and make their design floors more sustainable. I understand the issues a company may have with trademark and proprietariness but I think some of these are outdated, short sighted and need to be evaluated. The idea that there are trade secrets behind a garment in an industry that rife with designers finding “inspiration” from other designers and brands seems laughable. I also have a hard time accepting the notion that it is a fear of flooding the market with underpriced goods since the amount of garments that are slashed doesn’t make a dent compared to the amount actually sold. Brand protection? Do people really look down on a brand for being compassionate? Let me tell you, once the shoes are purchased and donated at the end of first wearers use, it’s likely that the brand can end up on anyone’s feet in any part of the world.
Slashing goods is an ancient practice that really needs to be updated. But if you must slash the goods, please know that there are myriad companies that can help you handle these goods in a more responsible way. It may even be worthwhile to engage some of these companies beforehand to help re-think end of life uses for these garments that can better utilize these materials and re-purpose them bypassing the need for slashing. In an era where our government is trying its hardest to discredit human impact on the climate, it is important that both individuals and corporations take every step possible to protect the progress we’ve made. It wasn’t that long ago that a similar episode of trashing its own goods led to a PR nightmare for H & M, even trending on twitter for several days. One positive outcome of the incident was that H & M created a take-back/recycling program which has been an industry leader. We can only hope that Nike learns a lesson from this and goes a step further in educating the public on the needs of recycling and providing solutions to do so.
At Wearable Collections we are obsessed with providing convenient solutions to help declutter your closets. The fact that we live in an on-demand society has not been lost on us. While it may not be realistic for us to appear immediately at the touch of your phone, we plan on doing our best to work within our current confines to make the reuse of your preloved fashion as seamless as possible.
We will be launching our home pick-ups in Manhattan today and plan to expand the service to the outer boroughs very shortly. Please be patient while we work out the kinks and adhere to our minimum requirements, as you all are in important cog to this programs’ success.
In terms of pick up timing, think of us like the cable company with 4 hour window periods. 8 am to 12 pm and 12 pm until 4 pm. We will do our best to accomodate and keep to any specific instructions but know that the easiest thing for all of us is if you could leave the bags with the doorman or in a place, clearly marked, that we can do a fly-by. These pick-ups are not limited to residential. Businesses, retail, and dry cleaners feel free to experience the convenience of Wearable Collections service.
(5 bag minimum) –
Find your zipcode and mark appropriate day on this pick-up form
10004, 10038, 10002, 10013, 10012, 10003
10009, 10010, 10001, 10016, 10018
EVERY OTHER TUESDAY
10035, 10030, 10031, 10037, 10039, 10032, 10033, 10040, 10034
10017, 10022, 10065, 10021, 10075, 10028, 10128, 10029
10036, 10019, 10023, 10024
10025, 10026, 10027
All outer borough residents please sign up for our newsletter or follow us on facebook, twitter, and instagram for updates on when we will be paying you house calls. Stay Tuned!
Incredibly, this Earth Week, 10 years into our companies’ existence, we will surpass the milestone of 10 million lbs of clothing, shoes and textiles recycled. This is an achievement that we are extremely proud of and while that number is a very large one, it is still only a small percentage of what is still destined for landfills. I would like to share some tidbits of wisdom I have learned along the way in hopes that others can have a smoother path in search of recycling solutions.
- Sometimes a Project Turns Into a Business
We started out 10 years ago with the idea of raising funds for a cause that was near and dear to us. That cause, spinal cord research, compelled us as one of our co-founders was left paralyzed when hit by a car. At the time, we knew very little about the amount of clothing that was cluttering up our wastestream. As we learned more about the problem of textile waste, coming up with solutions was something we couldn’t walk away from.
- It’s Hard to Compete with Non-Profits
I know, it sounds silly even saying a line like that. But what I mean is that it is hard to compete with the idea and perception of non-profits, especially in the realm of clothing collections. We are a small biz that dedicates a portion of our proceeds to charity. There hasn’t been one year where we have profited more than we have given to charity yet there are still people who act as if we are a big box corporation simply because we are for profit. We are proud to be among the early social entrepreneurs and plan to continually make a mark along this path.
- Partner, Partner, Partner
A great partner can go a long way in helping you achieve your mission. We couldn’t have accomplished even a small percentage of what we have without our great partners. Partners can come in all shapes and sizes and some of our best ones weren’t the most obvious ones. We feel that we can work with anyone: individual, school, corporation and charities. All it takes is a little creativity.
- Being Proficient Online can Have a Major Impact on an Offline Business
While we spend most of our energy driving around collecting clothes in what is very manually intensive labor, we cannot stress enough the importance of having a strong presence online has meant to the business. A simple REQUEST A BIN form placed on our website in 2005 did wonders for generating interest in the company and connecting us to buildings. The web is the best way to leverage your output. Something every business needs to do.
- You Can Never Stop Innovating
In this age of instant gratification and inundation of social media, ideas become stale very quickly. In order to remain relevant you need to continually push the ticket. Resting on your laurels will likely lead to dying on your laurels.
- Running a logistics company in NYC is challenging
Street closures, construction on new buildings, subway lines, the oh too infrequent ticker tape parade, and the big one..TRAFFIC, all make for a dynamic puzzle that needs to be solved each and every day. Much respect to companies like Fedex and UPS who make it look routine.
- Used Clothing is a Commodity
Like all commodities it is subject to market conditions. For some reason there is a dearth of data on the industry. Used clothing is rarely spoken in the same breath as other commodities such as plastic, metal and paper, but when the dollar is strong, like it currently is, it puts a lot of pressure on distribution of collections and we need to adapt.
- Winters Can be Very Cruel to Business in the Northeast
The last few winters have been brutal in the northeast. Not many businesses escape the wrath of such an onslaught. It can be especially hard for small businesses that don’t have the resources or cushion to do proper risk mitigation. It has felt a little ironic the past couple of winters, running an eco-friendly business while being blasted by Mother Earth.
- You Can’t Make Everyone Happy
Its an old truism but something that I have really had to internalize lately. We have needed to adapt to the changing market conditions which has left some folks a little upset. That being said, when we do hear a complaint, we try to connect the dots and develop a solution.
- Serving the Public is Very Rewarding
We have met so many great people along the way, ones who actually bless us as we handle their discards. This relationship has meant so much to our success and inspires us to do more.
Wow! After going through all these lessons its hard to believe that we were able to make it to 10 million lbs. Thanks to all of you for your support over the years.
If you are anything like us, we imagine that you celebrate the Earth most every day. But April is that time of year when we get a chance to show that love outwardly. There are many ways both big and small that we can show our appreciation for Mother Earth. Here are a few ways that together we can turn tiny acts into big impact.
Request a Bin for your building – A bin in your building is the gift that keeps on giving. Both you and your neighbors will never know how you lived without one.
Host a drive for your organization/building – Not everyone can have a permanent bin nearby but that shouldn’t stop you from benefiting from our service. We will help you create a one day or multiple day event that will help your community keep clothing out of landfills. We are flexible and creative. Put us to the test!
Visit a local GrowNYC greenmarket – Where else can you recycle clothing and shoes while supporting farmers and producers from the region.
Whether you are an individual who wants to bring our service home, or an employee who would like to share it with their colleagues, we are eager to find a way to work with you.
FILL OUT THE FORM BELOW TO REQUEST A BIN FOR YOUR BUILDING
Like any other forward thinking company, Wearable Collections continues to evolve. We are extremely pleased to announce the roll-out of our Clothing, Shoe & Textile recycling bin 3.0.
We will be swapping out our existing bins for the new and improved ones early 2015. But you don’t have to be an existing collector to reap the benefits of these new beautiful bins. Now is a perfect time to sign up your building. No New Yorker should be without the convenience of a clothing and shoe recycling bin nearby!
The average New Yorker tosses 46 pounds of clothing and textiles in the trash each year, totaling 6% of our entire residential waste stream. But with your help, landfills are going on a diet. More than 80,000 New Yorkers have helped NYC lose 1.4 million pounds by recycling unwanted clothing, linens, paired shoes, hand bags and more through textile recycling initiatives.
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Rather than having your residents haul their clothing to a collection site, or worse, dump them in the trash, Wearable Collections can pick up (free of charge) any unwanted textiles. You can arrange a pick up at your convenience monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually or Wearable Collections can place a receptacle in your building for your recycling convenience that is emptied on a regular basis. The goal is to reduce clothing in landfills while helping raise funds for non-profits. It is easy to do!
EASE & CONVENIENCE
Wearable Collections’ goal is to maximize clothing recycled while minimizing inconvenience to you. If you are interested in participating in our clothing recycling program,Wearable Collections will find a way to work within your building’s constraints.
FILL OUT THE FORM BELOW TO REQUEST A BIN FOR YOUR BUILDING
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