Fabscrap repurposes textile scraps to counter fashion's waste problem

Published 17th September 2020
Fabscrap repurposes textile scraps to counter fashion's waste problem
Written by Hena Sharma, CNN
New York-based nonprofit Fabscrap collects, organizes and repurposes textile scraps from the city's design offices, to divert as much unused material as possible from being landfilled or incinerated.
Founded in 2016 by its CEO Jessica Schreiber, Fabscrap was created to meet the city's commercial textile recycling needs. The company works with fashion brands like Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs and Lafayette148, in addition to interior design and entertainment industries.
Before founding Fabscrap, Schreiber worked at the New York City Department of Sanitation and was running the city's clothing recycling program. While there, Schreiber says many brands reached out about how to deal with their textile scraps, but "there wasn't a place that could handle the sheer volume of what was being thrown away."
For over the past few years, the nonprofit has helped address the problem -- working with some 500 brands around New York who are attempting to reduce their textile waste. Some designers can feel "a little guilty of how much fabric they're throwing away," says Schreiber, who added that Fabscrap receives 8,000 pounds of waste a week.
Customers choose fabrics to buy at Fabscrap in New York.
Customers choose fabrics to buy at Fabscrap in New York. Credit: DON EMMERT/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
One such brand is Mara Hoffman, a fashion company committed to sustainable fashion practices in manufacturing, materials and approach. The brand is known for incorporating recycled fabrics like Econyl (an alternative nylon made from the likes of recycled fishing nets) and Repreve (a polyester made from mainly recycled plastic bottles) into their designs.
The vice president of sustainability, product and business strategy at the brand, Dana Davis, says Fabscrap helped Mara Hoffman become more sustainable. The label had reached out in 2016 after seeing the amount of textile waste they accrued over time. "Season after season we're receiving (samples) and it just really piles up and piles up ... we were just really overwhelmed with the textile waste."
When a company is interested in Fabscrap's service, they can sign up online and fill bags with their unwanted textiles. The bags are then collected and brought into the nonprofit's Brooklyn office where materials are weighed and sorted for either reuse or recycling. Large fabric remnants are often given to fashion students, artists and craftspeople, whereas smaller scraps are shredded and then used for mattress stuffing, insulation and carpet padding.
While Fabscrap does help reduce the amount of textile waste at the design process level, there is still more work to be done. "I hope in 5 years we're starting to address the source of the waste not just the waste itself," Schreiber says.