In an effort to be more sustainable, fashion industry turns to recycling clothing

Rasa Kaye
August 22, 2019 - 8:49 pm

ArminStautBerlin/Getty Images


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Used to be we went shopping at department stores for new clothes. Now, you can call some of those clothes "new to YOU."

JCPenney and Macy's have just announced pilot programs with ThredUp, the world's largest fashion resale platform. They'll be selling secondhand women's fashion and handbags from the popular e-commerce site in select brick-and-mortar stores around the country, including Macy's Center City and Willow Grove. 

Arguably, the venerable retailers are testing "re-commerce" to get shoppers into stores, but if it also keeps discards out of the waste stream, that's a fine thing. (We're big fans of supporting thrift stores at the 1Thing blog.) 

As noted by ThredUp founder and CEO James Reinhart, fashion is the second most-polluting industry on the planet (right after Big Oil.) According to "Sustainability in the Textile Industry," the majority of the almost 150 million tons of clothing sold globally every year, ends up in landfills.

Vogue Business reports fashion brands are increasingly interested in recycling clothing, with upcycling and take-back programs multiplying across the sector: 

“The labels that offer these initiatives range from Patagonia and Levi’s to Madewell and Theory. The North Face alone processed 14,342 garments between January 2018 and May 2019… Eileen Fisher collected 220,000 items of used clothing in 2018, with take-backs having risen by an average of 15 per cent year-on-year," the article reported. 

It represents a new revenue stream for the brands, allowing them to profit twice from the same article of clothing while attracting a new customer base: younger, (and possibly) more environmentally aware shoppers who'd like to save some bucks while helping to save the planet.

According to the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association, recycling clothing and other used fabric articles:

- Reduces the need to create more landfill space.

- Reduces pollution created by incinerators.

- Provides low cost clothing to low income households all over the world.

- Recycling textiles saves the environment from tons of harsh chemicals, waste products and waste water used in the manufacturing of clothing as well. (Farming and textile dyeing are the top two global sources of water pollution.)

As you assess your closet, keep those 3 R's in mind (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. And if you're crafty, amaze yourself and your besties with some new projects that give new life to your castoffs.