The textile recycling industry is dying.
The company that owns it, New York City-based Fabricate, says it’s hemorrhaging customers because of the state’s new regulations.
It’s now facing bankruptcy.
But that doesn’t mean textile recycling is going anywhere.
As long as the state of New York, which has made it easier to sell used clothing to people, is going to enforce its regulations, the textile industry is going the way of the dinosaurs, says Mark Schreiber, president of the nonprofit organization the United States Recycling Association.
“It’s not going anywhere.”
The new rules, introduced by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, were meant to ease a citywide shortage of recyclables.
Under the regulations, any product that contains more than 50% recycled material — such as wool, woolen clothing, or even paper towels — must be recycled at a facility in New Jersey.
That’s a huge win for textile recyclers, who have struggled to find enough new factories to manufacture their wares.
It also means that many of them are struggling to pay for the materials they need.
And while textile recycling companies have seen big profits from the new regulations, many of those businesses are struggling financially.
New York’s textile recycling regulations require factories to build a new facility each year.
In the process, they must also hire more employees, pay more wages, and make more money.
That, Schreib says, means the industry is struggling to survive.
“What you’re really seeing is a lot of factories getting shut down and having to shut down operations,” he says.
And that’s a problem for textile recycling.
Recyclers need a lot more places to dump their products, says Schreive, who also works with the United Nations Environment Program.
“So there’s not a lot to recycle.”
Fabricate’s biggest problem is the state regulations, he says, which make it difficult to sell clothes in New Yorkers’ backyards.
“They don’t want you to come into their backyards to sell your products,” he said.
The state’s rules, he adds, are just “another piece of legislation that is going on in New Mexico and Texas that is hurting a lot companies that do want to do business here.”
A few years ago, Schriiber was working with fabricators in Texas and New Mexico to find new locations to open new factories.
But when the textile recycler went bankrupt in 2014, Schrieiber was devastated.
“I couldn’t see a future,” he recalls.
The city of New Mexico is the largest textile recycling producer in the country, producing more than 1.5 million tons of recycles a year, Schreeiber says.
The New Mexico textile recycling rules, which took effect in 2018, put a lot on Schrieib’s mind.
He realized he was in a position to make a real difference.
“A lot of the factories that I’ve been involved with in Texas have been struggling financially and have lost a lot,” he explains.
“But we had a lot in common and that is how we came together.”
The two-year fight to save the industry In 2015, the United Kingdom passed an EU directive requiring all textile mills to make at least 30% of their products recycled.
Under pressure from the European Commission, the UK government began enforcing the directive.
By 2017, Schraiber was lobbying the United Sates government to change its textile recycling law, to make it easier for textile companies to continue operating.
That legislation is still in the making, but it has been delayed a bit.
In September, Schreybauer, who is a member of the United Union of Textile Workers, and his colleagues filed a lawsuit in New Zealand against the government.
The government has since agreed to allow them to file the lawsuit in the United State, but the court will still have to approve it.
So far, Schradebauer and his group have collected more than $300,000 to fund the suit.
Schreyber is optimistic about the case.
“We have to keep working, keep pushing, and we have to be as vigilant as possible,” he adds.
That means the fight against the New York rules is far from over.
He says they’re looking to get the government to make the law change so that textile recycles can resume operating in New England.
“The textile industry has been a key contributor to New York and New Jersey’s economy,” he writes.
“And we believe that it should continue to thrive.”