Editor’s note: Next City first covered FABSCRAP in 2019, when it expanded from its Brooklyn location to a space in midtown Manhattan. At that time, the nonprofit had diverted more than 230,000 pounds of textile waste from landfills. We thought readers would be interested to know the nonprofit’s next move — to the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection. This story comes to us from our friends Green Philly and through Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push toward economic justice.
The fashion industry is notorious for exploiting our planet’s limited resources. Between the 6.3 million tons of textiles wasted a year during the production process and ten percent of annual CO2 emissions, the fashion industry is a major contributor to the climate crisis.
The New York City based nonprofit FABSCRAP is working to offset the waste created by the fashion industry by recycling pre-consumer textiles such as unfinished samples, cuttings, and deadstock material, then making them accessible to local creatives for reuse.
FABSCRAP’S origin story:
While working at the Bureau of Recycling and Sustainability in NYC, Jessica Schreiber was challenged with recycling pre-consumer fabric. The challenge inspired her to create FABSCRAP and pioneer a solution to the fashion industry’s textile waste problem. In 2016 Schreiber successfully pitched her idea on Lifetime’s Project Runway: Fashion Startup and was awarded several grants to launch FABSCRAP.
How FABSCRAP works:
Brands and designers who partner with FABSCRAP sort their leftover material into bags depending on their availability to the public. Proprietary fabrics with patterns or logos go into black bags, and resalable materials go into brown bags.
FABSCRAP picks up the leftover textiles directly from the designers and takes them to their warehouse.
At the FABSCRAP warehouse, volunteers categorize the textiles by fabric content and remove hardware such as zippers and buttons. After a three hour long shift, volunteers may take home five pounds of rescued material for their own creative works.
The best quality materials are taken to the shop for resale, and unusable scraps are recycled into products such as insulation.
FABSCRAP’S next stop: Philly
FABSCRAP expects to open a warehouse and storefront in Philadelphia this fall with the help of URBN and Nordstrom. In exchange for a new physical location in Philly and a capital grant, URBN will hold the first seat on FABSCRAP’S new advisory board. Nordstrom aims to contribute one million dollars in corporate grants to FABSCRAP by 2025 and develop an online portal where participating brands and designers can access their environmental impact data.
“It’s fantastic that URBN and Nordstrom support the fabric recycling and reuse infrastructure FABSCRAP is building. It’s a key component of a more sustainable future for fashion. Both of these influential leaders in the industry are actively contributing to our growth, increasing the accessibility of our services, and accelerating our impact,” said Jessica Schreiber, CEO of FABSCRAP, in a recent press release.
FABSCRAP is tackling one aspect of the fashion lifecycle, but other problems plague the fashion industry, such as URBN’s questionable labor practices and accusations of being an incredibly toxic work environment, or Nordstrom’s lack of supply chain transparency. FABSCRAP is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough to fix all the problems with the fashion industry.
By expanding the life cycle of fabrics and encouraging the public to construct their own garments, FABSCRAP hopes to foster sustainability on an individual level, but the work doesn’t stop there. The fashion industry also needs to change its habits to save our ecosystem, and FABSCRAP is one way to do that.
For more information on FABSCRAP and its mission, visit its website.
Annadore is a journalism student at Temple University with a passion for creative problem solving and storytelling. She is currently an editorial intern at Green Philly and producer with the Alternative Blacks Podcast. Her interests include roller skating, ghost stories, and sustainability.