Sustainability Options During COVID-19

Suppliers face decision-making on how to deal with inventory responsibly.

With orders cancelled, existing inventory is sitting idle. Brands and retailers are looking for agreeable options to dispose of unsold apparel and textiles, while the second-hand industry is looking for opportunities to play a larger role in reuse and recycling.

Accelerating Circularity, a new apparel industry collaborative, has assembled a very valuable list of feasible sustainably-minded options available in the United States in this time of COVID-19. The group’s message states, “By retaining value, we benefit our communities through meaningful employment, we mitigate environmental harm by keeping waste out of landfill, and we create economic value for business.”

  1. Donate to Disaster Relief Agencies • Pro - clothing and other textile items to help in communities affected by disasters; potential tax write-off • Con - finding acceptable organizations within short timeline, collecting and shipping costs.
  2. Warehouse goods to be used for future seasons • Pro – potential to retain some value in existing goods • Con – the need for warehouse space and carrying costs.
  3. Reuse through sale in domestic or international markets (3rd party de-brands and sells on) • Pro – affordable clothing is available, potential economic value for brands/retailers, economic value for reseller • Con – merchandise sold in original state including brand/label is a perceived risk.
  4. Recycle into new products • Disassembling items to make new ones from the existing textiles • Pro – potential to maintain some economic value; no need to reprocess into fibers • Con – requires organization; design; the cost to make new products and a sales plan • Recycle fiber into new fibers and yarns • Pro – making into yarns that have the potential to go into a variety of products. • Con – collection, sorting, feedstock conversation, shipping between steps required and loss of garment value. • Make into wiping rags • Pro – maintaining some value for fiber companies • Con – likely to be disposed of after short-term use • Make into insulation and stuffing 1. Pro – maintain some value for fiber companies 2. Con – likely to be disposed of after mid- or long-term use.
  5. ‍ Disposal • Incinerate • Pro – small benefit generating energy • Con – loss of usable material, loss of embedded value, particulate air pollution, reputational risk • Send to landfill • Pro – none • Con – loss of useable material, loss of embedded value, environmental risk associated with landfill, reputational risk.

Accelerating Circularity members ATRS Bank & Vogue, Giotex, I:Collect, Marimole, Texaid  and Unifi are “convinced that working together is our best option for creating new and better textile supply chains.”