We all know the dread of cleaning out your closet. It forces us to face our clothes that carry emotional baggage: unwearable due to weight loss or weight gain, money wasted on pieces we hardly wear, deciding on whether to keep clothes with sentimental value but that we no longer reach for. It’s a lot to evaluate and the process can be exhausting. Then, after all that work is done, we still have to figure out how to get rid of the clothes responsibly. Donate to Goodwill? Sell online? What about pieces that are worn out and can’t be reused? We may not be able to help decide on what to keep and what to let go, but we knew we could help women get rid of their unwanted clothing responsibly with The Clean Out Bag.
How & Why We Created The Clean Out Bag
We knew we wanted The Clean Out Bag to a part of the Brass experience. Afterall, you can’t start rebuilding your wardrobe on top of clothes you rarely wear. It’s like building a house on top of a sand - it’s not a good foundation. We set out to find a recycling facility that would want to partner with us on this concept. We were surprised by how difficult this task was. Most textile recyclers are very large facilities, processing truckloads of textiles and do not want to receive individually addressed bags of clothing. It simply doesn’t work with their industrial systems, so we needed to find someone who would be willing to accept the bags and process them. We spent about a month reaching out and contacting various facilities across the country. Many of the smaller companies are purely donation-based and do not provide recycling options. It was really important to us to find a partner that, in addition to donating or upcycling, was actively recycling textiles. And here’s why:
When you are donating clothing to a local thrift store, only 10-20% of these clothes are kept for resale. The remaining 80-90% should be sent to textile recyclers, but often donated items are tossed into dumpsters and end up in landfills. There is simply not enough storage space or time to process all of the donations responsibly.
Eventually, we found our partner in North Carolina. We had a champion at the company (hey, Liz!) who is very passionate about textile recycling and was excited by our idea. At their facility, your items will either be turned into fibers for use in recycled textile products (insulation, carpet padding, automotive materials), converted to rags for industrial use, or upcycled/repurposed in the second-hand market. That means almost 95% of all clothes are kept out of a dumpster and out of the landfill. The remaining 5% accounts for items that may be moldy or carry bacteria and must be disposed of due to health concerns. So, this is not yet a 100% fail-proof method, but it is certainly a vast improvement over the norm. The average American throws away ~70lbs of clothing per year and the textile recycling industry only accounts for 15% of our post-consumer textile waste. That means 85% goes to landfills.
As we continue our efforts with The Clean Out Bag, we will be tracking the number of pounds sent to our partner facility. We’re most excited by the enthusiasm women have for this concept. Clearly, it’s something women want and allows us to part with unwanted clothing, knowing that it will be handled properly. We also hope the process of evaluating and letting go of clothes that don’t serve us helps women to become better shoppers in the future, investing in quality pieces that stay in our wardrobes longer and get more use. This is a collective effort that makes a real impact on our environment and we can’t wait to share the progress as the concept develops!