As the Sustainable Fashion & Circular Economy subject goes from 'fringe' to 'front-and-center', the B.R.A.® (Bra Recycling Agency) has been crafting a variety of ‘turnkey’ methods for Intimate Brands and Retailers to offer their Customers a 'True Recycling' solution; and thereby "say A GREEN GOODBYE with a CLEAN HELLO to new!"
According to the Bureau of International Recycling, recycling just over two pounds of textiles can save 1,600 gallons of water and eliminate eight pounds of CO2 emissions; which applies with True Recycling ONLY.
Further, the “Paris Agreement” carbon abatement goal for the Fashion Industry’s emissions by 2030 is 1.7 gigatones of CO2, less than today. Recycling is part of the U.N.'s SDG-12 "Responsible Consumption and Reduction"; educators and Business Development are reaching towards integrating those Goals.
"The blur between (True) Recycling and a Charitable Clothing Drive, is evident in the conversations Brands have on our B.R.A.® Introduction calls," states Kathleen Kirkwood, founder of B.R.A.® Or simply, scroll on the social media feed of Bra Brands, who occasionally Post their (bra) Donation Drive as a “Recycling” Effort. This is misleading and thereby clouds the consumer understanding of their bra Drop-off.
To begin: Ms. Kirkwood’s Sound-bite motto, post-Pandemic - is "You can give away your clothes, but you Can’t Give Away Your Underwear..." With this easy sentence, a remarkable 'eureka moment' happens.
Retailer Clients are now aware of the bacteria risk their staff faces, if collecting & sorting used bra’s for Charity Donations. Certified B.R.A.® recycling projects for clients, are finalized with an Certificate of Impact (pictured below) outlining the materials recycled out of the landfill such as Metal, Textile, Plastic and Polyurethane foam:
Ms. Kirkwood notes: “On the sustainable panels & podcasts I’ve attended, there is inevitably a learning curve per episode; where defining differences between a bra Clothing Drive and RECYCLING to another Product, is a focus. In our case, the B.R.A.® recycles all bra’s, with contactless methods, into Commercial Carpet Padding (see Leggett & Platt Eco-Initiative)., lowering emissions from Landfill."
To be clear, fine Charities, such as Free The Girls, who partner with Intimate Apparel Retailers to accept consumer “Gently Used Bra” donations, donate (mostly to) female business owners overseas, to raise money to prevent Human Trafficking.
A mighty-fine cause; yet the Carbon Footprint to ship donated Pre-Worn-bra’s via a Freight Forwarder, is a costly consideration to our environment, with limited Oversight on who is receiving the Bra’s and how they are being dispersed upon arrival—as many bras inevitably have become Ocean Waste, or added to local landfill (sadly, overseas landfill infrastructure can be non-existent, and clothing settles into open roads & waterways).
Ultimately, many countries are closing their Borders to Pre-Worn Undies, as it stunts the Growth of Local Fashion Businesses and is a risk of bacteria-contaminants in Local Open Markets. Ghana’s municipalities have posted some shocking images on Instagram to convey their background story, leading to the New Legislation barring additional donated clothing imports.
Clothing Drive Charities contact the B.R.A.® to recycle the 30% - 50% of the bra’s that cannot be sold or re-worn, which begs the question: what happens to these bra’s, if recycling costs unavailable?
Additional Complications are revealed with Washing Used bra’s commercially for resale. "Clothing Drive" Bra Donations have the clear need for the Washing Machine Step. “Commercial Laundry” can ultimately be too costly to sustain; Washing Garments is also a micro-fiber pollutant, researched and outlined best in the film The True Cost of Fashion.
Micro-Fiber Pollutants from washing pre-worn bra’s for Secondary Markets have been documented by the Organization 5 Gyres (www.5gyres.org) along with the negative impact on Marine Life extinctions, and our food supply. The impact of Washing Used underwear—and frankly, all our wash—as it relates to deposits of micro-fibers in our waterways, was featured in the New York Times report: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/blog/reduce-laundry-microfiber-pollution/.
It is to all the above, that the B.R.A.® has created a Mobile solution for CONTACTLESS bra Recycling — a CIRCULAR solution for our intimate bra, is a future retail model, fortified in McKinsey’s Report for The Business of Fashion (BoF) titled “the New Normal”: