Why doES 85% of USED clothing end up in the trash*
Because the current system is broken. Everyone has too much stuff. Consumption has increased by 400% over the last 20 years.** Clothing collection, reuse, and recycling innovation haven’t kept up.
Donation organizations and resale platforms have more product than they know what to do with. And the reality is that it is harder and more expensive to responsibly handle used clothing in the US than it is to export it. As a result, a lot ends up going directly into the trash, or it gets baled up and blindly shipped offshore.
One example: parking lot recycling bins, which are emptied in bulk into bales and shipped to Africa. Imagine everything that gets thrown in those bins and you can see why there is a waste colonialism problem.
The good news is that we have a solution.
* Source: NIST
**Source: The True Cost Documentary
TRASHIE CAN HANDLE UP TO 1,000,000 LBS OF CLOTHING AND TEXTILE WASTE PER WEEK
THE TAKE BACK BAG™ mAKES RECYCLING EASY
The Take Back Bag™ is our way of collecting unwanted clothing and textiles directly from people’s homes – it’s fun, easy, and rewarding. Our innovative sorting and grading system takes it from there, weeding out the trash and getting over 90% of the unwanted clothing we collect to the next right place.
Our goal is to become everyone's default choice for clothing recycling. When we work together at scale, it’s a huge step forward for circularity, igniting the systems change we all want to see in the world.
TRASHIE KEEPS 90% OF OUR TAKE BACK BAG™ COLLECTIONS OUT OF LANDFILL
ONSHORE PRECISION SORTING
We sort and grade everything collected from the Take Back Bag onshore in the most advanced facility in North America.
Our detailed grading system ensures each item ends up in one of 253 grades based on quality, category, seasonality, and material. This means we can identify what we collect before it goes anywhere else and we never blindly export mixed bales. The process enhances our reuse and recycling efficiency and also ensures that we can take any actual trash out of the mix at the very first step.
We have also created a best-in-class data system that monitors all collections, generates sorting and grading reports in real time, and tracks each grade through to its second life.
(We'll be bringing this reporting live to our site shortly - stay tuned for updates.)
DOUBLING THE NUMBER OF TIMES A GARMENT IS WORN REDUCES ITS ASSOCIATED GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS BY 44%(Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation/MCKINSEY)
MATCHMAKING TO MAXIMIZE reuse
If an item still has use in its original form, the best thing we can do for the planet is find it a new home. Think of the design effort, the raw materials, the manufacturing, shipping, packaging, warehousing, distribution, and collection efforts made before we even get an item back. If we can extend the life of that item, then we are better stewards of the resources and energy that went into making it in the first place. The good news is that 70% of the world’s population wears used clothing and reuse is also growing steadily in western markets.
The hard part is getting the right items to the right people at the right time. We partner with a global network of retailers who buy very specifically graded items. We send warm coats to eastern Europe in the winter, beat up t-shirts to field workers in Southeast Asia, and sweaters to South America in our summertime.
To ensure the product is going where we want it to go, we track specific lots all to the actual retailer. We never sell to brokers or to other sorters.
GLOBALLY, LESS THAN 1% OF TEXTILES USED FOR CLOTHING GET RECYCLED INTO NEW CLOTHES(Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation/MCKINSEY)
For items that do not meet quality standards for reuse, we pull the right materials out for recycling and send them to downcycling and fiber-to-fiber partners in the US, Central America and Europe. Downcycling includes industrial rags, industrial insulation, carpet padding, pet bed filling, punching bag filling and the list goes on. The mix constantly changes depending on what we collect.
Why is fiber-to-fiber recycling such a small piece of the puzzle? Current capacity and technology for this are still very limited. Many recycling processes require 98% cotton or 98% polyester which is difficult to identify and isolate in post-consumer waste.
While most recyclers today are working predominantly with post-industrial waste, Trashie is working hard to address the post-consumer waste side. We send cashmere to Italy for recycling. We are actively running mechanical recycling tests on cotton (check out our Cotton Fabric Scrap Take Back Bag). And we are testing and building feedstock strategies for leading recycling innovators like Renewcell, Ambercycle, Circ, and Evrnu.
We test new fiber identification processes and are exploring automation where it might catalyze better sorting. We are deeply committed to the circular economy and while there is no one perfect solution, we are here for it all, every day with our partners, building something better together.
THE TAKE BACK BAG IS MADE OF 50% POST CONSUMER RECYCLED PLASTIC WITH A 100% RECYCLED PAPER ENVELOPE. WE RECYCLE ALL THE BAGS WE GET BACK.
BUILDING A system that works
We’re here to make recycling clothes fun. Regardless of where you shop and what you buy, together we can take a massive bite out of the problem of where it all ends up after you’re done with it.
Let us know your questions by sending us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us @Trashie on Instagram and Tiktok.
Why customers love cleaning out their closets with The Take Back Bag
“Love the Take Back Bag! This will be my third one. It fits a large amount of textiles, so I can really pack it in with all the items that I can no longer donate.”
“I got my first bag, stuffed it full of worn out t-shirts, printed the shipping label, and dropped it off at the post office. It was so easy, I ordered 2 more bags. I used my closet cash to get Zero Waste laundry sheets. They work great. Everything should be this easy peasy.”
“What a delightfully easy way to recycle. I was getting a little weary of donating my clothes at the local thrift shop, watching them dumped into heaps and heaps of other donations.”