This Reuse and Recycle Company is the Design Industry’s Answer to Zero Waste

If you’ve got a huge pile of memo samples and upholstery discards sitting in the corner of your studio or home office, you’ve probably been tempted to just toss it all into the trash more than once. Even the best intentions—returning them to showrooms, making them into pillows—can all fly out the window one day (probably when a client’s on the way) when you just can’t bear to look at the pile anymore. But if the thought of all that textile waste and vendor cost turns your stomach, and it should, here’s an innovative solution in New York City.

Established in 2017, Fabscrap, an independent textile waste management company and reseller in Manhattan’s Garment District, helps the design industry—fashion, interiors, product, and costume and set design—deal responsibly with all that waste. In 2019, Fabscrap collected more than 8,000 bags a week of discarded material from over 450 fashion and interior brands around the city. Each bag holds up to 50 pounds each, bringing the year’s haul to 259,521 pounds total. “If more than 10% of your waste is textiles, you’re legally obliged to recycle,” Jessica Schreiber, the company’s founder and CEO, points out. “But most offices or workrooms have no concept of how much garbage they’re producing, and there’s never time to go through everything during that library cleanse or season change.”

Camille Tagle, cofounder and creative director, and Jessica Schreiber, cofounder and CEO

While overseeing textile and e-waste management at New York City’s Department of Sanitation, Schreiber witnessed firsthand how design houses were attempting to reform their process without the necessary outlets to do so. Community-based organizations are geared toward household refuse and arts-and-crafters, but are not equipped to handle commercial waste, while industrial textile recycling plants, which usually require a minimum of 20,000 boxes to process, are intended more for large production facilities. When disposal regulations are not well publicized or are especially difficult to abide by, it can be hard for independent designers and small-batch vendors to know just what to do. As Camille Tagle, Fabscrap’s cofounder and creative director, puts it, “We need to make it super convenient so those systems are in place and become second nature.”

“There was an opportunity to not have these valuable fabrics be a loss,” Schreiber notes. “But I needed someone who knew the struggle of designers and creatives, resourcing and carrying bags of fabric up and down subway stairs.” That’s where Tagle’s background in fashion came in handy. “So many of my colleagues were operating with blinders on. Part of our purpose is to educate people. We make it affordable, so there’s no excuse not to adapt.”

Fabscrap’s multilayered operations are informed by Schreiber’s crash course in handling volume while working for the city. Collection bags are issued to designers, picked up, and then sorted at the company’s Brooklyn facility. Textiles can also be dropped off at their West 26th Street storefront. Fabscrap’s team of self-described Trash Nerds, along with a rotating crew of volunteers, separate intact yardage for resale, remove staples and tags, and categorize fiber content. (Design schools have caught on to the invaluable education involved in the exposure to and handling of every variety of material, and routinely send students to volunteer.) Anything that can’t be resold in the store, online, or in Instagram flash sales is sent to a New Jersey plant to be transformed into fill for carpet padding, moving blankets, and other industry materials, creating a nose-to-tail zero-waste process.

Fabscrap works with fashion brands, home accessory lines, real estate companies and other partners.

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