ATRS Textile Recycling Non-Profit and Fashion Industry Partnerships Highlighted in the Austin Statesman
This story was first published on the Austin Statesman website on Sunday, June 16, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Recycling clothing gives new life to garments
When clothes don’t fit or go out of style, most people tend to toss them out with the garbage. Each person throws out about 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles annually, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Some folks turn to charitable organizations to donate clothing in fairly good condition, but what can you do with the stuff that’s terribly stained, torn or just not wearable anymore?
The Houston-based recycling firm American Textile Recycling Services gives unwanted items and clothing a second life. It’s a fast growing industry, especially as consumers have grown accustomed to “fast fashion” retailers that sell cheaper garments with a shorter lifespan.
In Central Texas and surrounding areas, ATRS last year diverted about 13 million pounds of textiles from landfills. It collects used clothing, shoes and toys in about 100 collection boxes throughout Central Texas. ATRS sorts the items and finds a home for all the donated goods, no matter their conditions. A stained shirt could be repurposed into a wiping cloth, lone socks could be converted to pillow stuffing and old denim might be used for household insulation. Damaged textiles can be re-spun into thread.
Reusable clothes are sold to the secondhand market in the U.S. and developing countries. A portion of the proceeds of the items collected in the Central Texas area goes to Eastside Community Connection, a food pantry that aids low-income households in East Austin. About 30 percent to 35 percent of pantry’s annual income is generated through the ATRS partnership, according to pantry Executive Director Chandra Simms.
“The funds we’ve received from our partnership have allowed us to help thousands of people,” Simms said. “ATRS is more than a company that helps with our clothing donation efforts; we have developed a partnership where they are ambassadors for our organization throughout the community.”
Textile recycling is not limited to households. With the fashion industry’s constant seasonal collections, ATRS’ Chief Marketing Officer Debra Stevenson Peganyee saw an opportunity to work with retailers and manufacturers to donate and liquidate their overstock.
Peganyee spent years working in the fashion and interior design industry and was surprised to find that “there was a whole other industry on the other side that works just as hard when the trends are over.”
Apparel and footwear lines typically create about three to five collections a year, Peganyee said. Many times companies are left with out-of-season inventory. Fashion brands such as Seven Jeans, Trina Turk, Romeo and Juliet, and Siwy Jeans already have signed on to donate their unwanted stock to ATRS, which has a design studio in Los Angeles’ fashion district.
Peganyee said that because Austin is the company’s third largest market after Houston and Dallas, they are also hoping to work with local designers to reduce the disposability of clothes.
There are about 100 ATRS recycling drop boxes in Austin. To find the one nearest you, call 866-900-9308. For more information, visit atrscorp.com