A couple weeks ago I had the great pleasure of visiting New York City.
One of the highlights of my trip was visiting FabScrap, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing fabric waste. Everything that I’m going to share with you is my own experience. These are photos I took when I visited the FabScrap warehouse personally.
This is what I saw when I walked into FabScrap. Black bags piled to the ceiling. I was floored. I am going to be honest: It was not a pretty sight. I didn’t know what to say. Part of me wanted to run away – back through the maze of warehouse that had got me to this place – but I was sooo curious.
There are things going on in every industry that we don’t see because we don’t want to see. Mountains of garbage are things we want to pretend don’t exist. But fabric garbage? Textile waste?
I stayed in the warehouse so I could learn more…
FabScrap was founded by Jessica Schreiber, who previously worked for the NYC Department of Sanitation as a Senior Manager in the Bureau of Recycling and Sustainability. She helped launch and then managed NYC’s e-waste and clothing recycling contracts.
Jessica teamed up with Camille Tagle, an evening wear designer who was appalled by the amount of fabric waste in the fashion design industry. She now directs the recycling and reuse of fabrics collected by FabScrap.
FabScrap trucks collect scraps from design studios and fashion companies using reusable bags like these. All of the fabric scraps collected by FabScrap here are a by-product of the fashion design industry in New York.
The fabric is transferred to bags like this to await sorting by volunteers. Can you believe this huge mountain of fabric in bags would have ended up in landfills?
FabScrap has approximately 130 clients in the New York City area from whom they collect scraps and unfinished samples, but there are thousands of fashion designers and companies working in NYC alone. This is just the tip of the iceburg because there is so much fabric waste.
The more I learned about commercial textile waste in the design industry, and the dedicated people who work at fabscrap, the more beautiful this story became.
All of the volunteers I met were sewists! They are passionate about re-using fabric instead of letting it go to waste. This is Rachael – a design student. She told me she loves being able to predict fabric trends by seeing the fabrics discarded by famous design studios! When I met her she was folding large pieces of fabric to be sold in the resale area.
Here’s Althea – another volunteer who is also a bag maker (see her website) and she teaches quilting at her local public library. She was sorting the fabrics straight from the bags.
The volunteers who work here earn fabric for their time spent sorting. Althea uses the fabric that she earns to teach her students how to make quilts.
The fabrics that FabScrap and its volunteers rescue from the landfill are either recycled into usable products like industrial felt, moving blankets, mattress stuffing, carpet padding, and building insulation – or they are sold for $5 a pound!
Makers of all kinds (crafters, fashion students, home sewers, quilters) can visit FabScrap and shop cotton fabric, polyester fabric, leather, faux fur, buttons, zippers, and other notions. When you are ready to check out, you get to put your finds on a huge scale.
When I left FabScrap, I reflected on how this place turned beautiful as I learned what was happening.
People are transforming ugly bags of waste into colorful piles of material just waiting to be sewn into creative projects and useful items. It really is fabric recycling and the environmental impact is huge.
At this moment, FabScrap has operations in Brooklyn, New York and a second location in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. If you are interested in volunteering to earn free fabric or shopping for a great deal, keep your eye on their website. You can also shop online through their online portal or contact them.
In the meantime, make sure to enter the current SewCanShe giveaway – I’m giving away a goodie bag of fabrics that I got at FabScrap!
Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂