A Letter from Dave Galvin, PSI President Emeritus: What PSI means to the Product Stewardship Movement

by Dave Galvin,

President Emeritus, Product Stewardship Institute
First President, North American Hazardous Materials Management Association
Formerly with King County Local Hazardous Waste Program, WA

One of my grounding work philosophies was to innovate locally while coordinating nationally and even internationally (“think global, act local” we were told in the 1970s) for all of my 40 years working for Seattle Metro and King County.  We can learn from each other, but we have to be willing to innovate locally with a grounded view as to what is going on nationally and internationally, and how we can both learn from others and influence others.  I spent my career following those principals:  work locally to do the best job we could while coordinating nationally to learn from others and to influence others to keep us all moving in the right direction.  This yin-yang approach is, I believe, key to innovation and positive change at the local government level.

It was critically important for me to have a group such as PSI in order to learn from others around the country and beyond as well as to influence national policy direction.  Local governments can’t do these big policy lifts alone, they need coordinated help from others around the country and even beyond, such as the European Union.  Yet local governments have the flexibility to enact innovative polities that are more difficult to enact up the food chain.

PSI serves as the unique organization made up of state and local governments that helps us at the local and state levels to do the best we can with progressive policy issues related to product stewardship while coordinating nationally and internationally for the best results.  It is actually a conservative approach:  let local governments and states innovate, then learn from these models to develop national policy.

PSI is a model for positive policy development related to solid waste management, recycling and product stewardship initiatives.  We need to invest in PSI in order to keep the momentum for positive change:  to maximize recycling, and to shift the paradigm so that producers of waste are expected to pay for and run take-back systems for the wastes their products produce, from packaging to the end-of-life products themselves.  We need to keep pushing for these universal, global, ecological concepts as we deal with day-to-day politics.

I have enjoyed my 3+ decades of association with Scott Cassel and PSI, including serving as PSI board President for more than ten years.  PSI is the KEY organization that can integrate what we have learned over the past 40+ years, assess the current climate nationally and internationally, and lead progressive policy initiatives within receptive states and nationally as politics allow.

Please support and participate in PSI’s programs.  If we wish to fully address climate change, we need to address how we deal with wastes.  The sooner we can achieve a one-to-one take back system such as advocated by McDonough and Braungart’s classic tome from 2002, “Cradle to Cradle,” the better.  We need to do better than today’s reality.  We need to reach for the sky, for what will actually result in a sustainable future.

The Product Stewardship Institute has served as a compass for the past 20 years regarding a sustainable model for product design and waste management.  Let’s continue to push for this ideal in order to generate enough initiative locally and with states to influence the national and world view.  Product manufacturers need to take full responsibility for the life cycle of their outputs, including taking back and re-manufacturing end-of-life products they sell.  The sooner we can move to this conservative paradigm, the better!

Thanks for your support of PSI and its initiatives.  The more we can advocate for full product stewardship, the more our environment will benefit locally as well as across this fragile globe.

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Tribute to Harold Siegel – PSI Advisory Council Member

Harold_Siegel_Profile_Imageby Scott Cassel

Harold Siegel was my favorite conservative. He was also a PSI Advisory Council member…my brother’s father-in-law, and my friend.

Harold passed away at age 89 on March 20 in New York City. He was still working at Excelsior Graphics, the business he built to prosperity. Harold was a Patriotic lover of this country, a great pool player, and someone who always listened to the other side.

We bonded one night years ago after seeing his grandson, my nephew, perform at a college play. At a bar that night over beers, we discussed the need to take action to protect the environment. I learned he was an environmentalist, believing companies should take responsibility for reducing the impacts of the products they put on the market.

Contrary to many conservatives, Harold saw no contradiction in a free market operating under needed regulation, which levels the playing field for all competitors. He gave me advice on how to frame issues so conservatives could support extended producer responsibility laws. I can’t say those strategies always worked, but many people don’t see the world as Harold did.

The last time I spoke to Harold was at his granddaughter’s (my niece’s) wedding only a few weeks ago. He was in the hospital for the week leading up to the wedding, but rallied to be present at the big day. At the brunch the next day, he recounted what PSI was doing from the recent newsletter he read. He read them all, and remembered what he read.

We were very different people. But in his decency, Harold engaged with me and others whose views were different. Through those conversations, we found important issues on which we agreed, and we built a strong relationship around environmental issues, which only strengthened our family ties.

My favorite book as a kid was Harold and the Purple Crayon. It was, aptly, about a kid named Harold who used a purple crayon to draw his way through life. Whatever he needed and wanted, he drew it, and thus made his own reality. I believe Harold Siegel saw his own world in this way. He had a kind approach that others found attractive, and he manifested this approach in the world.

I will miss him greatly, and I hope that his legacy of kindness, compassion, and willingness to engage with those with opposing views can be a lesson for us all.

Remembering John Waffenschmidt

by Scott Cassel

On Wednesday, December 5, John Waffenschmidt died peacefully, and unexpectedly, in his sleep. As the PSI team struggles with the sudden loss of a close colleague and friend, many fond memories of John have surfaced.

John was passionate about everything – mountain climbing, lifecycle analysis, environmental justice, science, and energy-from-waste technology. He spontaneously sang and danced at our conference, and would correct anyone misusing the term “incineration.”

Product Stewardship Institute Conference

Photo by Robert Klein. Left to right: Fenton Rood (Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality), Scott Cassel (PSI), and John Waffenschmidt (Covanta) enjoying PSI’s 2017 Product Stewardship Forum in Boston.

John brought a unique blend of talents and interests to his role as PSI’s point person at Covanta for a decade-long partnership between our organizations. The partnership is, in some ways, an unlikely one between an environmental organization and a waste management company. However, John found multiple ways we could work together, including the time he came to me with the business concept of destroying waste pharmaceuticals left in medicine cabinets, at no cost to government, in Covanta’s municipal waste-to-energy plants.

To determine if our government members would support this concept, PSI convened two technical webinars and a briefing paper. John presented for Covanta and even offered a slot to a competitor that operates hazardous waste facilities. After rigorous questioning from state air quality regulators and others, two PSI state members stuck to their policy of hazardous waste incineration for waste medicines, but many others approved the use of solid waste combustion. This project helped pave the way for Covanta’s Rx4Safety program, which has provided free destruction for residents and governments of over 5 million pounds of waste medications.

John and I worked closely on many other projects through the years, including joint presentations to state officials in support of EPR legislation and a mattress stewardship dialogue in Connecticut we facilitated and Covanta seed funded, which led to three state EPR laws for mattresses.

My last conversation with John was a follow-up call he made immediately after a phone conversation in which he sensed a tinge of concern in my voice. He wanted to make sure that what he had conveyed to me was understood. He wanted to smooth out a minor ripple in our communications. I assured him we were good, and that our relationship was solid. That call left me with a strong feeling of humanity. John sensed something was not quite right, and he acted on it. His follow up call took 30 seconds, but it is the lasting feeling I have of John – of honesty, friendship, and peace.

Producer Responsibility: Seeking Leaders in the Textile Industry

by Scott Cassel and Kristin Aldred Cheek

blue-pattern-texture-macroLast fall’s textiles summit was a watershed moment in efforts to address textile waste in the U.S. Organized by the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), New York Product Stewardship Council (NYPSC), New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (NYSAR3), and New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I), the event brought together more than 200 textile designers, brand owners, used clothing collectors, recyclers, and government officials for the first time. The focus: improving the sustainability of the textile industry throughout the supply chain, including reducing the amount of textiles disposed and keeping millions of dollars in valuable materials circulating in our economy.

One point of general agreement at the summit was the need to move away from a “fast fashion” mentality and, in its place, build a repair-reuse-recycle mindset among businesses and consumers. Unfortunately, nearly one year later, leadership from brand owners and manufacturers remains largely absent.

Upstream, there are voluntary initiatives to reduce the environmental impacts of the textiles industry. Researchers are developing new methods to separate and extract fibers from used textiles, which would enable companies to recover the most valuable material and turn it into new products. Downstream, there are often-cited projects by companies like Patagonia and Eileen Fisher to repair, reuse, and recycle clothing.

Such efforts are examples of the varied possibilities for a more sustainable approach, but they shouldn’t distract us from the reality that the textiles industry as a whole is the second largest polluting industry in the world after oil and gas. While we wait for fiber recovery technology to be refined and brought to scale, or for voluntary efforts to grow to a meaningful level, the amount of textiles disposed continues to climb. A record 13 million tons of textiles went to landfills or combustion facilities in 2015 alone.

The technology to reuse, recycle, and repurpose many textiles already exists. Countless organizations and businesses already understand the value of recovering what’s currently being wasted and are clamoring for more material.

What’s missing is the properly funded infrastructure for collection and processing.

By requiring all textile manufacturers to finance and manage the post-consumer textiles they sell into the market, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policies can achieve the efficient reuse and recycling of a high percentage of scrap textiles. EPR policies create an organized structure for cooperation and communication that is based on financial incentives and social responsibility. These systems create a level playing field among producers so that all players compete equally. At the same time, EPR lifts much of the burden from taxpayers who are currently funding disposal, regardless of their personal textile purchase and disposal habits.

There is a huge opportunity here for brand owners. Over the long haul, economies across the globe are heading toward more transparency, more substantive corporate responsibility, and more circularity. Companies that take responsibility for the lifecycle of their products will have the fewest risks and the greatest likelihood of increasing their market share. Moreover, companies that seize a leadership role today and engage in the process of developing an EPR system will be setting the bar for themselves and their competitors and defining product stewardship in the textiles industry for years to come.

To develop effective policy, there needs to be a facilitator that can develop a consensus on the extent of the problem, the goals sought by those with an interest in the outcome, the barriers to achieving those goals, and the solutions to overcoming those barriers. There is a roadmap for success. Over the past two decades, PSI has facilitated the development of many effective EPR policy models, and today our members are interested in the development of a policy model for textiles.

Governments are preparing to tackle the issue. Manufacturers and brand owners need to bring their knowledge and interests to the table and lead the industry to the solution. If your organization is interested in being part of the conversation, contact PSI’s Kristin Aldred Cheek at (617) 236-8293.

In Response: The Conflict of Interest That Is Killing Recycling

The Product Stewardship Institute’s Scott Cassel and Megan Byers respond to the New York Times’ August 15th Opinion piece, The Conflict of Interest That Is Killing Recycling

scrap-metal-trash-landfill-smA crisis can be painful. It can also be an opportunity for much-needed change.

Recent trade restrictions by China have troubled many U.S. industries, as well as municipal recycling programs that rely on Chinese markets. Shrinking markets for recovered material have raised municipal recycling costs. As a result, some recycling programs have closed, while others have stockpiled or disposed of recyclables the public expects to be turned into new products.

The fluctuation of recycling markets is nothing new. But for 50 years, we have failed to recognize that recycling is stifled by an uneven playing field.

It is time to disrupt the current recycling economic model, which relies on taxpayers and municipal governments to pick up the cost of managing waste products and packaging from which companies reap the profits. To date, U.S. corporations have dodged their responsibility to manage their products after consumers use them.

On the surface, it is often cheaper to dispose of used products and packaging than to recycle them (though landfill tipping fees are rising). However, in doing so, we fail to account for the much costlier externalities. In reality, brand owners and consumers are not paying the full cost of production and consumption, which includes environmental and social damages such as the need to continually mine virgin resources for the manufacture of new products. Instead, we experience these costs in the form of water, air, and land pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions leading to climate change. The cost to clean the water, air, and land is much greater than that to prevent contamination in the first place.

Governments often establish recycling programs to reduce litter and waste to improve quality of life for their citizens. Unfortunately, communities are at a huge disadvantage compared to brand owners that benefit from the throw-away economy while paying none of the waste management costs. Furthermore, most waste management companies like things just the way they are now. The status quo allows them to protect their investments in disposal technologies, and they enjoy powerful contractual leverage against municipalities and individual residents.

The real recycling tragedy is not just that municipalities use different bins and labels. It is that every community collects different materials, educates their residents in different ways, and has separate contracts with garbage and recycling haulers that provide different services and incentives. This inefficiency and lack of municipal cohesion is the basis for the recycling and garbage disposal crisis in the U.S.

There is hope. Countries across the world require brand owners – such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble, SC Johnson, General Mills, Pepsi, Amazon, and Walmart – to fund and manage the recycling of materials they put on the market. These companies, which are the same ones fighting change in the U.S., hire a non-profit to operate a network of collection and processing facilities with lean government oversight. This network leverages existing infrastructure and provides options for municipalities. These “producer responsibility” systems collect the same set of materials in every jurisdiction. They provide the same educational materials and symbols, with appropriate regional nuance. They have the same instructions and standards for municipalities and other collectors to keep contamination low.

And they get results. British Columbia, for example, has achieved a 75 percent recovery rate for packaging and printed paper, as compared to the 55 percent average in the U.S. for the same materials. The Canadian province has also reached an enviable contamination rate of 6.5 percent, compared to an average of about 15 percent in the U.S. These systems are in place in Europe (for over 30 years), across Canada (for up to 15 years), and now in Israel, Japan, South Africa, and an increasing number of other countries.

Well-crafted extended producer responsibility frameworks also reward innovation, especially for companies that use less material, switch to readily-recyclable options, and incorporate a higher percentage of recycled content in packaging.

The time has come to bring producer responsibility for packaging to the United States. Consumer product companies and waste management companies have valid concerns about change. But municipalities and taxpayers can no longer bear the sole financial burden for a problem created by societal consumption and brand owners’ poor packaging choices.

If we listen to one another, we can solve this problem together. We must understand the problems created by waste, share common goals, collectively overcome barriers, and agree on the solutions available.

It takes will, but it is long past time to start.

EPR and the China Sword

by Scott Cassel and Kristin Aldred Cheek

In July 2017, China formally announced new import restrictions on recyclables, which came into effect in 2018. U.S. municipalities are now feeling the Sword’s sting. A lack of investment in domestic recycling infrastructure, dependence on other nations to accept contaminated recyclables, and failure to account for the full lifecycle costs of packaging have resulted in significantly increased costs for local governments and taxpayers. China’s policy shift revealed flaws in U.S. recycling systems, which currently rely on voluntary action on the part of packaging producers.

In British Columbia, however, where an extended producer responsibility (EPR) law is in place for packaging and paper products, the effects of the Sword are muted. There is now increasing interest in EPR for packaging in the U.S. – which will only grow as the impacts of China’s policies continue to unfold.

Failure to place responsibility on producers through effective EPR legislation has left many local governments and taxpayers in a difficult bind across the U.S. From Massachusetts to Oregon, municipalities are suspending all or portions of their recycling operations and seeking permission where needed to landfill recyclable items. Twenty-two municipalities in Washington recently granted a waste management company permission to landfill post-consumer paper that had been piling up. In Minnesota, where state law forbids landfilling or burning recyclables, waste managers and regulators are discussing the possibility of a waiver for the first time. In places where recycling contracts are expiring, municipalities suddenly find themselves absorbing enormous costs in their budgets for something that used to generate revenue, or raising residents’ recycling and waste disposal rates.

Meanwhile, BC’s EPR program has transformed the collection and recycling of packaging and paper products into an integrated province-wide system that has achieved one of the lowest contamination rates in North America. Instead of each municipality collecting its own set of recyclables and educating their residents in different ways, BC has developed a cohesive system that spurred investments in local processing capacity, achieving the economies of scale that packaging brand owners need to meet their ambitious recycled content and recyclability goals. Well-functioning European EPR systems – for instance, in Belgium, Spain, and Italy – have achieved similar success.

U.S. municipalities have been doing their best within the limits of their individual jurisdictions, but their efforts are not enough in the face of growing plastics pollution, increasing complexity in packaging, and shrinking export markets for recyclables. Without carefully planned, significant change in product stewardship policies and practices for packaging, U.S. governments, recyclers, and brand owners will not achieve their goals. It is time for U.S. policymakers and businesses to seriously examine how EPR programs can achieve the results they seek. That’s why the Product Stewardship Institute is reconvening packaging EPR strategic calls this fall for our Full Members. If you would like to be involved in our work on packaging EPR, contact Kristin Aldred Cheek at kristin@productstewardship.us, or (617) 236-8293.

Consumers Spoke and the Message is Clear: Phone Book Publishers Must Take Opt-Out Requests Seriously or Pursue Opt-In Instead

by Megan Byers

Old_Phonebooks_litterAbout a decade ago, at the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI)’s urging, the Local Search Association (which represents phone book publishers) created a website where residents can choose to halt phone book delivery.

In the past year, PSI documented more than 29,000 opt-outs generated through our Phone Book Opt-Out Toolkit, a trove of public outreach materials that makes promoting opt-out as easy as copy-and-paste for governments, environmental organizations, and concerned citizens.

We asked people to rate how easy or difficult it is to opt out on the industry-run opt-out website via an anonymous survey. 74 percent of respondents provided additional feedback to elaborate on their experience. Here’s what we learned:

  1. 69 percent of respondents found the opt-out website “very easy” or “easy” to use.
    PSI commends the industry for creating a website that is easy for many people to use.

 “The site was easy to use and the link easy to share so more people could reduce the number of unwanted phone books! Thanks.”

  1. But over a third of respondents thought the process was too long and confusing. Some even gave up.
    The website does not make it clear from the start that opting out is a multi-step process. Counter intuitively, you have to register to unregister from phone book distribution. Common criticisms include that the opt-out process is too time consuming, the website is not mobile friendly, and it is annoying to create an account. Some respondents said that it would be easier to opt in than opt out, and that it felt like the website was intentionally designed to make people feel uncomfortable and confused, thus preventing completed opt-outs.

“You asked for a lot of information and it was time consuming to have to wait for the email so I could complete the opt out.”

“I gave up because it was so complicated. At some point I needed a password to register.”

  1. One in five respondents who gave additional feedback were wary of giving up personal information like their name, email address, and phone number in addition to their address.
    The opt-out website promises that all information required is used only for verification purposes. Still, some survey respondents were skeptical.

 “I hate giving out my name, personal phone in order to opt out.”

  1. 40 percent of respondents who gave additional feedback reported that it didn’t work – they still got phone books after opting out.
    It is notable that PSI’s survey did not ask about opt-out outcomes (after all, we merely intended to capture feedback about the opt-out process). Nevertheless, many respondents wrote that phone book deliveries continued after opt-out.

 “I opted out – about 5 years ago – yet I continue to get phone books delivered to me (including another one this weekend)! After each incident, I’ve directly emailed my contacts at Local Search Association and reported the unwanted delivery. Each time, they’ve reached out to the specific publisher to “address the issue,” but despite this, I continue to get phone books. Very frustrating. It doesn’t appear to be working due to either publishers not providing their delivery people with opt-out lists or the delivery people just ignoring the lists if they are provided. So 4 years of unwanted deliveries (post-opt-out) and counting…”

PSI applauds the phone book industry for supporting an opt-out website that most people find easy to use. Now, we urge improvements that would make opting out easy, accessible, and comfortable for all. The feedback PSI has gathered is a good place to start.

We fully recognize that delivering directories to some buildings but not others has very real challenges and requires time, effort, investment, technology, and good communication with distributors. But if any other service failed to do what it promised almost half the time, it would quickly be replaced. If the industry’s opt-out system can’t actually honor half of the requests they receive, we must ask: isn’t there a better way?

It is time for the Local Search Association to implement an opt-in system. This way, those who want phone books could easily opt into delivery by signing up online, mailing in a slip, or calling the publisher. Those who don’t use phone books would avoid environmental and economic impacts while keeping their homes clutter-free. Furthermore, local businesses could more accurately assess how to best spend their advertising budget and target their phone book ads to the right audience. To sustain advertising revenue, publishers should expand and improve online offerings to make YellowPages.com the number one stop for consumers in need of local business information.

Phone books should be delivered only to consumers who request them – just like any other product.

Until an opt-in system is available, the best option to stop phone book delivery is to opt out. If you still receive a phone book despite opting out, we encourage you to call both the publisher and Neg Norton, President of the Local Search Association, which runs YellowPagesOptOut.com.

Look in your phone book for a publisher name and find them online, or browse our list of top publishers. Mr. Norton can be reached at (908) 286-2385 or Neg.Norton@localsearchassociation.org.

Questions? Contact PSI’s Megan Byers.

In Response: The Right Way to Remember Rachel Carson

The Product Stewardship Institute’s Scott Cassel responds to the New Yorker’s March 26th article, The Right Way to Remember Rachel Carson

Jill Lepore’s The Shorebird speaks volumes about Rachel Carson’s love of the Maine intertidal. It also covers her scientific expertise in biology that she parlayed into a job at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, her full body of nature writing (rejections included), and her secret relationship with Dorothy Freeman from whom she got tremendous support for her methodical, sound, and truth to power Silent Spring ode to chemical companies. Lepore paints a picture of Carson as persistent, politically savvy, and a rock solid caregiver for family members whose lives fell into her lap. Carson’s keen observations and love of nature enabled her to amass knowledge she could not disown about DDT and its impact on the ecological chain of life. It is much clearer to me now how Carson’s robust life experiences enabled her to be the one to set the environmental movement on its way. Thanks to The New Yorker for publishing excerpts of Silent Spring when others would not, and for keeping her spirit alive with Lepore’s piece, as the Trump Administration drains beauty from the intertidal swamp.

Announcing the New PSI Logo: a Note from CEO and Founder Scott Cassel

cropped-2018-primary-logo.pngToday, PSI launches its new logo as the next step in the evolution of our brand.

In 2000, PSI became the first national organization to systematically promote the concept of product stewardship in the U.S. The first thing we did, after forming our Board of Directors, was develop a name, tagline, and logo.

The name and tagline were easy. I chose Product Stewardship because it implies all stakeholders have a role to play in reducing product impacts, even if one of those actors – manufacturers – has the greatest responsibility. In 2000, and perhaps still today, the term “product stewardship” invited dialogue, more so than holding one stakeholder solely responsible. We used the word Institute to convey the academic rigor we would use to affect change. And we included a tagline for the times – Sustainable Solutions to Protect Our Environment.

PSI Logo
The original PSI logo

But developing the logo took four long months. That logo lasted us 17 years. Although I must admit the original logo looks a bit like the planet Saturn, it also conveyed a sense of movement and the gathering of ever increasing layers of stakeholders around a central table, amidst a blue/green landscape. Movement, collaboration, action-the essential elements for introducing a new concept like product stewardship.

Alas, a reboot was long overdue. Luckily, we found a talented young designer, Anthony Howard, who led us quickly through a two-month process through which we retained all we liked about the original logo, but incorporated fresh, clean, and modern design elements. We kept our name, the circularity of the dialogue table (or should I say the circular economy table?), and the blue/green color scheme. But we simplified the logo, removing the tagline and multiple shades, and amplified the acronym by which most people now know us. The sharp angles of “PSI” in our new logo represent the continued cutting-edge nature of our work and convey forward progress, as well as the head-on approach needed for change.

As PSI enters its 18th year in business, I feel fortunate to have worked with so many talented staff, board members, advisory council members, industry and organizational partners, and government members – in the U.S. Canada, Europe, and globally. There are now thousands of people in the U.S. who discuss the concepts of product stewardship and EPR openly and actively. These people helped pass many of the nation’s 110 EPR laws on 13 product categories in 31 states, even as we work in equal measure on voluntary programs in states whose political compass is in a non-regulatory direction.

We will be gradually rolling out this logo into all of our materials over the next few months. The branding also sets the stage for our website redesign – one of PSI’s major priorities in 2018. Be on the lookout for great things to come!

 

Let’s Take on Industry Polluter #2
Donate & Recycle
Used Clothes, Footwear, and Other Textiles

The next time you toss a shirt into the trash because it’s time for a fresh one, consider this: the manufacture of clothes, shoes, belts, and accessories – otherwise known as textiles – is the second largest polluting industry in the world after oil and gas. That’s right. Pesticides used to grow cotton, toxics in dyes, and energy-intensive manufacturing create a whopping impact on the environment and public health.

What happens to these products after we no longer want them is just as shocking. Eighty-three percent [1] of used textiles are disposed in the garbage, even though the majority of these items can be donated for reuse and recycling. Even items that are worn and torn can be reused as rags and insulation.

While chemists and technology innovators work to reduce upstream manufacturing impacts, we all can make a huge difference in reducing the number of downstream textiles that become garbage instead of feedstock for new products. We challenge you to donate or recycle all used textiles for reuse and recycling.

The problem, however, is only getting worse, as the consumption of “fast fashion” is projected to jump 63 percent by 2030. [2] In New York State alone, residents dispose of 1.4 billion pounds of clothing and textiles each year, worth over $130 million. Reusing and recycling these products would create up to 1,000 new jobs. [3]

Textiles Summit at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)

To address the growing problem of textile waste – upstream AND downstream – the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), New York Product Stewardship Council (NYPSC), New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (NYSAR3), and New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) hosted the 2017 New York Textiles Summit at FIT in New York City on October 31st. The event brought together more than 200 textile designers, brand owners, used clothing collectors, recyclers, and government officials to discuss how to bring used textiles back into the circular economy.

The Summit was divided into four parts to represent each phase of consumption from upstream to downstream. Here are a few things we learned:

Session 1: Sustainable Manufacturing and Design
Since waste is created at all stages of the textile manufacturing process, even starting with pattern making, it is critical to bring designers and recyclers together to explore ways to reduce waste at the source and increase the value of post-consumer textiles. Moderator Tricia Carey from Lenzing Fibers emphasized that, although smaller companies might not have large marketing budgets, they are making sizeable strides in sustainable manufacturing on par with larger companies.

Session 2: Collection
Industry leader Eric Stubin from 2ReWear focused on immediate opportunities to collect textiles using existing public and private infrastructure. Panelists discussed how retail stores can be a convenient option for consumers to drop off used textiles. For example, Eileen Fisher Renew recycles 170,000 units of clothing in the U.S. each year, receives over $2 million worth of donated clothing, and creates $10 million in resale value. Patagonia’s Worn Wear program accepts all used Patagonia clothing and offers consumers $20-$100 per item. “More retailers will be forced to collect for reuse because of the cost of virgin materials,” said one panelist.

New York City’s textiles reuse and recycling program needs immediate scalable solutions to manage 200,000 tons of textile waste each year from City residents. One local partner, Goodwill Industries, whose social mission is fueled by revenue from donated clothing, collected nearly 43,000 tons of used textiles from New York and New Jersey alone in 2016. [4] Even with these initiatives, citizens don’t always know what to donate or where to go to do so, which is why PSI, NYPSC, NYSAR3, and NYSP2I facilitated unified Standards for Coalition Participation, a consensus forged among non-profit and for-profit collectors for membership in the Re-Clothe NY Textiles Coalition. To educate consumers, one participant suggested that all clothing labels include a unified message: “wear-donate-recycle.”

Session 3: Markets
In this panel, major New York collectors discussed domestic and global markets for post-consumer textile material. Cyntex’s Scott Cynamon, panel moderator, emphasized that the value of secondhand textiles is much higher than other commodities, and clothing markets tend to stay relatively constant while other markets fluctuate. In order to take advantage of these markets, however, we need a shared vision among a diverse stakeholder base, including manufacturers and retailers, to increase the amount of textile material collected. Overcoming consumer perception of “second hand” as inferior is a critical first step. There are 3.8 billion pounds of used textiles that enter the North American market each year, and only 1-2 percent of these clothes are high-end brands for resale. Although existing markets exist for 95 percent of used textiles, most is disposed. “Our biggest competitor is the landfill,” said one processor. Another challenge is that secondary textile materials compete globally with low-cost new products produced in China and India.

Session 4: The Circular Economy and Innovative Recycling Technologies
Moderator Tasha Lewis of Cornell University promoted accessible technologies that can transform post-consumer textile waste into a raw material substitute. Stacy Flynn discussed her vision that became a reality when she founded Evrnu, which uses cutting-edge technology to turn post-consumer fibers into new clothing made of regenerative materials. Another company, I:CO, provides collection and reuse solutions that enable over forty leading brands in sixty countries to participate in the circular economy. I:CO’s Jennifer Gilbert called these “bright lights of progress amidst the daunting impact of textiles disposal.” Circular businesses like these are critical to reducing the textile industry’s environmental impacts, and the group challenged the fashion industry to enter the global circular economy by supporting take-back and the remanufacture of recycled fibers.

The Summit concluded with a facilitated discussion among participants to develop a shared vision for moving forward. Overall, participants agreed that moving away from “fast fashion” by increasing education among consumers about the benefits of a repair, reuse, and recycle mindset is an essential next step.

PSI will continue the dialogue in 2018 to identify tangible steps to increase reuse and recycling. Those interested in participating should contact PSI’s Scott Cassel at (617) 236-4822.

 

Any opinions, findings, and/or interpretations of data contained herein are the responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the opinions, interpretations or policy of Rochester Institute of Technology and its NYS Pollution Prevention Institute or the State. Funding provided by the NYS Pollution Prevention Institute through a grant from the Environmental Protection Fund as administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

 


[1] Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2014 Tables and Figures, U.S. EPA, January 2016.
[2] Pulse of the Fashion Industry: 2017, Global Fashion Agenda and The Boston Consulting Group, Inc., 2017.
[3] The Re-clothe NY Coalition, New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse & Recycling, 2017.
[4] Huffington Post, interview with Jose Medellin, director of communications for Goodwill NY/NJ, Sept. 28, 2016.

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