Building a Profitable Domestic Textile Waste Recycling and Innovation Industry in New York City in a Covid-19 Impacted Economy, Sharon Silbermann

There is a world-wide apparel and textile waste crisis. This crisis exists at a global, national and municipal level. New York City, the largest city in North America, generates an overwhelming 200,000 tons of apparel and textile waste annually, representing 6.3% of the total municipal solid wastes collected and the New York City’s Department of Sanitation spends $110 million for its collection, hauling, and disposal. The need to develop a profitable and sustainable alternative for addressing the waste crisis is of paramount importance. The current research was designed to identify the knowledge and insights of key
stakeholders in the recycling and innovation landscape to inform the development of a profitable
domestic textile waste recycling and innovation Industry in New York City. Qualitive in-depth individual interviews (IDIs) were conducted with thirty-seven (37) representatives of a wide range of stakeholder domains, including waste management, brand sustainability and sourcing, apparel and textile recycling, textile innovation, textile mills, government waste management and sustainability agencies, legal and financial, and industry analysis and policymaking.

Additionally, 105 New York City residents representing all five boroughs completed an online
quantitative survey designed to identify and understand citizens perceptions, attitudes and
behaviors regarding apparel and textile waste and recycling. Findings indicate that there is a
universal shared concern by stakeholders and a commitment to developing a local circular
fashion and textiles economy.

A wide range of solutions were offered by stakeholders and a single shared strategy did
not emerge. However, findings provide important insights for next steps and the possibilities of
collaborative partnerships and shared actions along the circular value chain. The necessity of
increased government and public engagement and the need for greater support through investment, legislation, and manufacturing commitments in developing and testing circular systems were highlighted. Findings from the survey indicate that over 90% of NYC citizens expressed interest in participating in convenient recycling behaviors (e.g., curbside pickups, etc.). Additionally, findings indicate that the current Covid-19 pandemic is perceived to be a catalyst for public, private and non-profit sector collaborations to mitigate the negative effects of the Anthropocene as we explore the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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