SOME BACKGROUND INFO
RESIDENTIAL VS COMMERCIAL WASTE
New York City residents throw out 200,000 tons of clothing, shoes, accessories, and linens every year. Textiles comprise 6% of the City's total waste stream. Residential waste - material that has been used and discarded by an individual or family - is picked up by the Department of Sanitation.
Commercial waste - what's discarded by a business - is picked up by private carters. There are few, if any, reporting requirements and enforcement of recycling regulations is lacking. Therefore, it's extremely difficult to quantify and characterize commercial waste. The best estimate is that it is at least 40x residential waste.
THE PROBLEM OF SCALE
Even if a designer wanted to recycle their textile waste, they would find it difficult due to a lack of infrastructure and a problem of scale.
Let's say one design office creates 20 boxes of unwanted fabric. This much material, of varied size and content, would quickly overwhelm arts organizations (there's only so much you can use in crafts!). However, industrial fabric recyclers require a minimum volume closer to 20,000 boxes (which would be impossible for the design office to store).
Both may require transportation arrangements and extra time spent researching all potential options or meeting with numerous individuals who may be interested in reuse.
The traditional non-profit accepts donations for free and resells items to cover their operational costs. Any additional revenue supports their charitable mission.
While the quantity of clothing donated may be increasing, the overall quality is decreasing. This means fewer items are eligible for resale in thrift stores. There is also more competition, as it is easier than ever to find new items at similar prices. Non-profits must mine donations for value and are becoming more selective.
Because commercial fabric scraps don't fit into the resell-at-thrift model and furthermore, require a different sorting process, most non-profits prefer not to take them.
THE FABSCRAP MODEL
FABSCRAP is a 501(c)3 charitable organization, though it flips the traditional non-profit model. The service fee covers operational costs and allows us to give away fabric to students, artists, local designers, and crafters for reuse. Rather than a receiving a tax receipt for the value of the donation, the service fee is tax-deductible.