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The Nonprofit Working to End Textile Waste

The Nonprofit Working to End Textile Waste

It’s no secret the fast fashion industry is a major climate change contributor. Globally, it creates an average of 13 million tons of textile waste each year, consumes around 79 billion cubic meters of water, and produces 2.1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.


But as the effects of the climate crisis continue to intensify, major players and newcomers in the industry have begun to reevaluate their manufacturing and production tactics, giving rise to the slow fashion movement. Fashion companies and designers concerned with the future of our planet are now prioritizing sustainable material sourcing, ethical production, their environmental impact, and waste reduction. Often, this means sourcing from vintage, deadstock, recycled, and reused textiles. Enter: FABSCRAP, NYC-based nonprofit helping educate and empower designers and corporations by offering an affordable and accessible way to take advantage of fashion textile reuse and recycling.


Before starting FABSCRAP, founder Jessica Schreiber worked at New York City's Department of Sanitation and oversaw the city's clothing recycling program. During this time, Schreiber got her footing in the textile waste world, learning about nonprofit infrastructures and the logistics behind textile materials management.


Fabscrap, Sustainable Fashion, Slow Fashion, Textile Waste

Photo Credit Luna Photography 

In 2015, New York-based fashion design companies reached out to the city’s recycling program asking what they should be doing with their excess fabric. “It wasn't necessarily garments, so it didn't fit into the traditional nonprofit world,” says Schreiber. “Even though in New York City there is technically a requirement that if 10 percent or more of your waste is textiles, you should recycle it, there was really no way for businesses to comply with that at that time.”


In response, Schreiber founded a working group focused on understanding more about how the waste was being created, what kinds of materials were included, and what stages of the design process make the most excess materials. The findings pointed to a problem that had an obvious solution — the need for a nonprofit that would collect the raw materials and redistribute them so they wouldn’t end up in a landfill.

“That's what FABSCRAP was set up to be — a recycling and redistribution resource for the fashion industry, but also for makers who otherwise might not have access to these materials.”

—Jessica Schreiber


Today, textile suppliers can schedule excess textiles to be picked up by the FABSCRAP team in New York City. (The organization's current textile partners include Marc Jacobs, Oscar de La Renta, J. Crew, and Macy’s, among numerous others.) It’s then transported to the FABSCRAP headquarters, where attached tags help team members and volunteers identify and sort the fabric by content. (It’s worth noting that Spandex, Lycra, or elastane cannot be recycled at this time.) From there, small scraps are shredded to be reused into padding materials such as insulation and moving blankets. The larger pieces are consolidated after sorting and stored at the FABSCRAP warehouse, where artists, sewers, and designers have access to them. 



For FABSCRAP, accessibility is embedded in their values. Schreiber double-majored in both education and biological sciences. She then refined her background in climate science, public outreach, public policy, and communication in graduate school. And it’s her studies that inform how FABSCRAP educates the public and industry about textile recycling.

“It's always been about breaking down systems and science into a way where it feels digestible and connects to people at an individual level and to something that they have reference to in their own lives.”

—Jessica Schreiber


Today, FABSCRAP provides education in the form of lectures on textile waste and sustainability, tours of their NYC-based workshop, and information for brands about sustainable textiles. “There's a lot of education that happens with brands because they’re busy with the demands of that job,” says Schreiber. “To also expect them to be experts in sustainable fabrics or end of life use or what new technology exists for recycling is a lot to ask.”


During the pandemic, FABSCRAP — like many others — was forced to shift their creative professional skill shares online, hosting bi-monthly Zooms with a variety of audiences. But that didn’t stop them. 


Fabscrap, Hass, Fast Fashion, Textile Waste


“We’re coming at it from an educational background,” says Schreiber. “In the public education that we do, we like to tell the backstory of how this started. It was one person who noticed the problem and sought a solution. I think anybody who encounters a problem like that should feel like a solution is possible. It's just step after step, and then they're part of the solution now by getting involved. That’s what I hope is the empowering piece of our work — that everybody can do something now where they're at and that it can have a ripple effect.”


As for what’s next, FABSCRAP plans to extend its reach into Baltimore, D.C., and parts of New Jersey — reducing textile waste and providing sustainable material resources along the way.


To shop textiles and learn more about FABSCRAP’s educational classes, visit their website. You can also follow them on Instagram at @Fab_scrap to discover creations by FABSCRAP artists at #MADEWITHFAB