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City of New York, Ellen MacArthur Foundation Team Up to Fight Clothing Waste

New Yorkers throw away a lot of clothing. City officials estimate that 200 million pounds of textiles, or the equivalent of 440 Statues of Liberty, are delivered to landfills every year.

This tracks with global trends: Less than 1 percent of the materials used to create clothing worldwide is recycled into new clothing, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a U.K.-based nonprofit that promotes the circular economy. The vast majority—73 percent—is either dumped or incinerated, their value as resources lost forever.

But help is on the way. At least for a while.

The City of New York has joined forces with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative, garment recyclers, resale companies and some of the biggest names on the high street to save unwanted clothing from an ignoble end.

From March 4 to June 12, the New York Department of Sanitation, New York Economic
Development Corporation, Asos, Athleta, Banana Republic, Gap, H&M, Reformation, Zara, Bank and Vogue, Hallotex, I:CO, Lenzing and ThredUp will embark on #wearnext, a mission to “make sure the city’s old clothes find new life.”

An online map will help guide New Yorkers to more than 1,100 locations across the city, including thrift stores and charities, where they can drop off clothes they no longer want or wear. The campaign will also rally consumers to use the hashtag #wearnext to share on social media stories of how they’re repairing, reselling or swapping their castoffs.

“As customers, we know where we buy our clothes and we know where we have worn them, but #wearnext is about the next stage of that journey—‘where do our clothes go when we have finished with them?’” said Francois Souchet, head of Make Fashion Circular, which is supported by C&A Foundation, the Walmart Foundation and Mava Foundation and counts Burberry, Gap, H&M, HSBC, Nike and Stella McCartney among its core partners.

“We believe that clothes should never be trash,” he added. “By bringing together these brands, along with the City of New York and recyclers, we have an opportunity to ensure New Yorkers can find a new life for their clothing.”

But while consumer responsibility is an “important step,” individuals alone cannot fix the fashion industry’s problems with waste and pollution.

“We need the industry to work together to create a system where where clothes are made from safe and renewable materials, new business models increase their use and used clothes are turned into new ones,” Souchet said.