A Look Into Textile Recycling through FABSCRAP

A Look Into Textile Recycling through FABSCRAP

By: Melissa Lent


What: Textile recycling is sorting textiles to be reused or repurposed in another form.

Why: An average of 21 billion pounds of textiles in the U.S. fills landfills every year. While they sit there, they can release three or four times their mass in methane, which contributes to global warming. Our decisions around clothing have a profound impact on the environment. And recycling means that our footprint is much less.

Our members Susan and Malka sorting fabric at FABSCRAP! PC: Janette Wu
Our members Susan and Malka sorting fabric at FABSCRAP! PC: Janette Wu


FABSCRAP is a non-profit organization working to recycle textiles and make fabric available for reuse. Their warehouse in Brooklyn Army Terminal houses all of the textiles they collect, their volunteer stations, and a reuse room where people can buy fabric. (They are also opening a retail location in Manhattan soon!)

Here is a breakdown of the process:

  1. FABSCRAP provides a service of accepting bags of excess scraps/fabrics from a partnering company.
  2. These companies have a choice to sort their fabrics between two types of bags: brown bags (proprietary) and black bags (non-proprietary).
  3. Proprietary means the fabric has some kind of pattern or marking synonymous with its brand, so it cannot be sold or reused in its current state. This type of fabric is shredded to make shoddy, or little pieces of fabric used in insulation, carpets, lining, and more.
  4. Non-proprietary fabrics could be reused again by the public! These bags are moved to volunteer stations and sorted into 7 different categories: 100% wool, 100% cotton, 100% Polyester, MIX (This could be 60% cotton & 40% Poly), Spandex, Paper and Trash.
    1. Fabrics that are greater than a yard will be moved to the reuse room to be sold to the public. But fabrics smaller than a yard will be recycled and shredded to make shoddy!  

Watch the video above with EFE Co-Founder Janette, who used to intern at FABSCRAP, for a fun tour and a more detailed explanation!


This year we partnered with FABSCRAP for our first Make-a-Thon. Our team had a volunteering session with them and afterwards they gave us 15 pounds of free fabric on top of the 5 pounds each that you already receive as a volunteer. Those extra 15 pounds were put into use by our upcyclers so they could enhance their existing clothing. We are extremely grateful for FABSCRAP and their help! We had so much fun being volunteers and I would like to share how it is like if you are interested!

Our members Fanny and Gilda choosing fabric in the reuse room. PC: Janette Wu
  1. Actually find FABSCRAP:  I am saying that because I got lost BOTH times I went there, but that is also because I am directionally challenged. Here are some amazing, detailed directions from our co-founder Janette:

FABSCRAP is located at Brooklyn Army terminal between 58th Street and 63rd Street which are also the two entrances.

After getting off the closest subway station, or the 59th station (N,R,W), walk towards Brooklyn Army Terminal. 

Enter from the 63rd Street Entrance: (Recommended Entrance during WEEKDAYS ONLY)

  • After walking past the parking lot and the loading dock, you will walk into the building through the side entrance. (There is a ramp that leads into the building.)
  • Keep walking straight down past the vending machines and BEFORE you go through the glass doors, you will see two elevators to your LEFT.
  • Take the elevator up the 5th floor and on your left there is an unmarked door.
  • After you go through that door, FABSCRAP is right there!

Enter from the 58th Street entrance: (Aka the scenic route if you are up for a little adventure of potentially getting lost.) (WEEKDAYS AND WEEKENDS)

  • After getting off the train station at 59th Street, walk towards Brooklyn Army Terminal via the entrance on 58th Street. The entrance is located on 58th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue.
  • After you walk past the parking lot, you can enter the building via the side entrance.
  • Keep walking straight down past the tables and chairs and go through the glass doors.
  • After that you will see an open area with 2 train tracks, an abandoned train, and a long hallway/aisle down the center.
  • Walk down the looong hallway and after you go PAST the glass doors you will see a set of elevators on your RIGHT.
  • Take the elevator up to the 5th floor and on your left there is an unmarked door.
  • After you go through that door, FABSCRAP is right there!
Our members Soon-Hee(right) and Fanny(left)getting their sort on! PC:Janette Wu
Our members Soon-Hee(right) and Fanny(left)getting their sort on! PC:Janette Wu
  1. Learn how to sort: There are 7 different categories: 100% polyester, 100% wool, 100% cotton, paper, trash, mix, and spandex. Mix is anything that is a combination fabric, like 50% cotton, 50% polyester. Spandex CANNOT be recycled, but can be sorted for reuse in the reuse room or within the many tin trash cans filled with spandex that are separated by color! If you ever have a question about how to sort something while you are there, Annie, the amazing community coordinator at FABSCRAP, is right there to help!
  2. Chill and sort: Honestly using a stapler remover to separate swatches of fabric from its paper card is super relaxing. Plus music plays in the room and you can even change it to whatever you want, as long as you are not disturbing others with anything too loud. Or just use headphones with your own phone!
  3. Shop till you drop! Just kidding, shop consciously: After sorting for three hours, you can shop for up to five pounds of fabric for free! If you volunteered, and want more than five pounds, then you can buy for $3/pound. Anyone coming in who has not volunteered that day can buy for $5/pound and students at $3/pound. Also while sorting if you see anything you like, you can take it as part of your five pounds!

Find the next FABSCRAP volunteering session here!

The EFE team after a fun volunteering session!
The EFE team after a fun volunteering session!
Back to Top