A coalition of textile, apparel and fashion industry interests is urging the Federal Trade Commission to integrate textile reuse and recycling into its ongoing revisions of the FTC Green Guides, the group said in an emailed press release.
Topics related to textiles are absent from a series of recycling-focused workshops being held Tuesday aimed at expanding the Green Guides’ scope, according to the group’s letter sent to the FTC Monday.
The 22 signers include American Circular Textiles, a coalition of brands and others in fashion founded by fashion circularity advisory firm Circular Services Group; advocacy group Politically In Fashion; and Express Inc.-owned UpWest.
Clothing resale is dominating the discussion around sustainability in fashion, despite questions around how much of a dent that will put into the vast amount of apparel that ends up in landfills.
In the last two decades, textile waste in the U.S. has grown 80% and is the fastest-growing waste stream, according to the latest report from American Circular Textiles, whose members include The RealReal, Rent the Runway, ThredUp, Arrive, Fashionphile, Supercircle, Thrilling, Debrand, H&M, Reformation, Sortile and America’s Best Cleaners. More than 30 billion pounds of textile waste end up in landfills and incinerators each year, per the report.
“We encourage the FTC to provide an additional workshop focused on textiles to appropriately acknowledge this pressing reuse and recycling topic,” the group said on Monday. “It is imperative that textiles be part of your approach to considering recycling. We hope you will focus on textiles in future events.”
While recycling more broadly has risen in the U.S., there is growing confusion around textiles, the group also said. Much can be reused and repaired as well as recycled, but questions remain about what should be reused, repaired or recycled, what is recyclable, and how to recycle it, per its letter. The textile recycling market could top $8.5 billion in ten years, the group noted, citing research from Global Market Insights.
Yet leaders in the industry and government often don’t appreciate the importance of textile recycling in addressing a range of sustainability and financial goals, according to ReCircled CEO Scott Kuhlman. ReCircled began as an apparel resale platform, but its primary goal of keeping apparel out of landfills led it to focus more on recycling.
“Any fashion brand on the planet knows that this is at the forefront, but they don't know where to start, and they don't know what is legitimate or not, particularly C-suites,” he said by phone. Kuhlman hailed the group’s effort to get the FTC to include textile reuse and recycling in Green Guide workshops and revisions, noting that information, interest and support are badly needed.
“The two areas of government that are interested in recycling is EPA [the Environmental Protection Agency] and DOE, the Department of Energy. And I've spoken to both of them,” Kuhlman said. “I've been in the conferences, in webinars, particularly around grants and things that are going to be available to recycling processes. Textiles are not part of the conversation.”