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  • Writer's pictureAi Mei Sara

Sustainable Fashion Volunteering with FABSCRAP

Updated: Sep 23, 2019

Last Saturday, I headed to Brooklyn Army Terminal to spend the morning volunteering with FABSCRAP, an organization that collects unused and discarded fabric to resell or recycle. I came across the organization when trying to find volunteer opportunities that involved fashion sustainability. I have never been to the Brooklyn Army Terminal before, so walking through it for the first time on an early Saturday morning was intimidating. It had the air of a deserted, cement warehouse where a zombie soldier could walk past at any moment.

Although it contained an ominous feeling, the inner architecture was quite fascinating. The terminal is comprised of two large warehouses, each several stories high that were connected down the the middle by a rusted railway track and car, and above by a glass roof. Many cement balcony-type structures protruded from the different floors in a diagonal pattern that gave the inner sanctum an added flow and symmetry.

As I walked through, I did not see many signs or people, but the few people I did see, I decided to follow. They led me down the long, middle corridor to an elevator that I noticed had been to the fifth floor. Knowing that FABSCRAP was located on a fifth floor, I decided to venture in and see where the fifth floor of this elevator took me. Luckily, it brought me to the front door of the organization. Inside FABSCRAP, I found several tables arranged in a rectangle shape flanked by a large mountain of black garbage bags to one side and shelves of fabric and spools on the other. A nice intern met me and stationed me at one of the tables where she instructed me to sort all the fabric according to the following categories: 100% cotton, 100% polyester, 100% wool, mixed, and elastane.

All the pure fabrics would be shredded and re-used, but anything with elastane (the generic term for Lycra and Spandex) needed to be separated out completely because the it melts when put through the shredders. According to FABSCRAP's website, the pure fabrics are "shredded to create insulation, carpet padding, furniture lining, moving blankets, etc," but materials with elastane would end up a landfill until a future use could be found.

I put on my headphones and spent the next couple of hours sorting fabric. The sorting became a game for me as I tried to guess the composition of each fabric. I realized how useful this experience would have been for me during my Textile Survey class at Parsons. The process of sorting does a great job of getting one familiar with the various textures of different materials. At the end my volunteering session, I and all volunteers were given the opportunity to take home 5 lbs of free fabric. What a great advantage to any design student and a highly recommended experience.

To learn more about FABSCRAP, visit their website here.

Tables for FABSCRAP Volunteers

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