There is this company called For Days that recycles textiles, and I am following it closely. They may have to recycle their name because I don’t know what it means, but no matter. I have been looking for something like this for a while as there are few, if any (depending on your location) textile recycling options.
Why is that?
Recycling is hard and expensive, even for plastics—a material we have been trying to recycle for decades. Only a small percent of plastics get recycled because recycling hinges on single material composition. It seems we have a problem with sorting. Sure there are numbers on the bottom of the milk jugs and yogurt containers, but often there are different kinds of plastics in the same container, and our recycling systems can’t handle that.
So consider how hard it is to recycle clothing. Say you have a trench coat like the one below (an early favorite on Second Serve). Maybe it is a treated cotton one so it repels rain but is not waterproof. It’s lined with acetate so it’s easy to slip on and off. There is fabric belt with a plastic buckle, but also buttons so you have options for how to wear it. The cuffs have some elastic built in so it’s stretchy and can fit over gloves, if needed. Oh, and there's removable tulle on the inside lined with ribbon and more buttons.
Try taking that trench apart and sending the different materials to their respective recycling destinations. Can I recycle the cotton if it’s been treated with chemicals? Where is the button recycler plant anyway? And when do I get a button bin?
We do not yet have the infrastructure to accomplish the textile recycling task on a wide scale. And it seems we do not have the will for it either, as it is cheaper to make something from raw materials, use it, and chuck it, than it is to figure out how to recycle it. The “take-make-waste” linear way of thinking has been the traditional approach to manufacturing, the textile industry included.
Take-make-waste is bad for our environment and it doesn’t take a ton of statistics to see this; common sense will suffice. But here are a few anyway:
92 million tons of waste- created by the textile industry each year
2000 gallons of water-needed for to make one pair of jeans
20%-the amount of all wastewater produced by the textile industry.
85%- the amount of clothing that goes to landfills
I can go on but why. It’s depressing.
Our mission at Second Serve Resale is to reduce the consumption of new clothing. If you buy resale, or buy nothing at all, you take yourself out of the take-make-waste. There are times, though, when you have to buy something new. I need new tennis shoes every now and again. I shop online on my regular resale platforms, to see if there are any preowned but new shoes in my size, and the brand that fits my feet. My current shoes are a Babolat size 9. If anyone ever sees them around, send me a message. By the way, there are many items that have never been used and sold on the resale market. And they are cheaper!
But yes, I will buy new tennis shoes if I can’t find them on resale. I wear them until the treads are worn or when my feet start hurting, and then they are old. I can’t mend them. If someone knows a way to rejuvenate old sneakers I’m all ears. And I am not going to donate them if they are really worn, because no one wants them. What I have been doing is holding on to them, keeping a pair in my car in case I forget my current tennis shoes, keeping a pair for red clay (if I'm lucky enough to play on it), and keeping a pair to wear outside when I garden or am in the rain etc. Still, they are piling up…but not for long.
Enter For Days, a company that will recycle textiles for you.
For Days is an online store that sells upcycled, recycled, and low waste produced items. They also sell a “take back bag” for $20. They send this big bag to you, and you can put any kind of textiles in it: clothing, sheets, towels, shoes, linens. You fill the bag with your stuff, then download and print a label to put on the bag. Then you drop it off at the post office.
All these shoes fit in the take back bag.
I can spend $20 and send my shoes back to For Days and they will recycle them. They do this by sorting everything and working with multiple textile waste companies (like Hallotex, Leah Fibers, Phoenix Fibers) to achieve the greatest reuse and recycling percentage. Not all of it is recycled- according to For Days 50% is downcycled for new uses like carpet padding or building insulation, 45% is resold and 5% ends up as trash. It’s not perfect but it’s more attractive than the 100% landfill option (the follow up question I have for For Days is who buys the 45%, and where does it go. That, I’d like to know).
Also, If you spend $20 on a take back bag, you get a $20 credit in the For Days online shop that sells a variety of sustainable clothing and products. They don’t have sustainable tennis shoes. This is what I bought:
It’s an insulated roadie wine glass. Susan’s birthday is coming up.
I like this aspect about For Days. They want you to recycle so they are giving you a $20 credit incentive to do so. If you have a good experience then you will do it again. Win-win!
That’s our philosophy, too. There are the environmental benefits of buying resale, and the chance to get cool clothing unavailable elsewhere. These incentives, along with sending 85% of the proceeds to the nonprofit you pick, will hopefully get you hooked on resale. It’s contagious!
Maybe the name “For Days'' is the literal purpose of the company, to increase the time that our earth is operational. There are no perfect, single solutions to the environmental challenges that we face today. But there are alternatives to the take-make-waste paradigm. The statistics show it is a sisyphean challenge, but to think about it in daily increments is doable. Our seemingly small efforts matter, and each day and every day counts.
Okay, I get it now. Good name.