Holding Stitches: A New Company Repairs Discarded Clothing for the Good of the Earth

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Dave Russell/Renewal Workshop
Jeff Denby and Nicole Bassett, Renewal Workshops’ co-founders, at the company’s factory.

Textiles have the worst recycle rate. Only 20 percent of donated clothes are sold through charity stores, with the rest either shipped overseas or placed in landfills. Consumers are not the only ones stuffing landfills, either. Manufacturers toss out around 10 to 12 percent of clothes due to minor damage, reports The Guardian.

As a result, every year, about 13 million tons of textiles are dumped into landfills in the US, according to the latest data from the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s equal to about 150 million cubic yards of landfill space. Clothing items then take anywhere from three months to 80 years to decompose, all the while releasing methane as well as dyes and chemicals.

A new eco-friendly company based in Oregon, called Renewal Workshop, offers a solution. Founded in June, Renewal Workshop aims to correct light damage to clothing and sell items back to consumers through a dedicated website. They also plan to sell some of the repaired items back to manufacturers.

“[Our company] is one that will help bring about a circular economy for the apparel industry. It is redefining our relationship to products, how we make them, how we use them and what their overall journey looks like so they don’t end up in a landfill,” says Renewal Workshop co-founder Nicole Bassett.

As a principle, they only work with sustainability-focused companies, such as PrAna, Ibex, Toad & Co., and Indigenous. Here’s the process: once the team receives the damaged items from these companies, they sort them and start repairs. The renewed clothes bear both the brand logo and a “RW” tag.

“All those products that can’t be repaired, we reuse the material to create something else,” explains Bassett. “And then only when that piece of apparel is truly finished does it need to find its final resting place — and we believe that should either be composting or recycling.”