By Katy B. Olson
Stunned by the sheer waste created in the fabrics and furnishings industry, a team from Robert Allen, led by Kelly Tobias, design and merchandising associate for Beacon Hill (part of the Robert Allen Group), recently began a partnership with a local nonprofit, New Jersey–based Green Tree Textile Recycling, to salvage the brand’s previously unusable fabric from certain death in the landfill. Fabric making means intensive trials, says the company: “Trying different yarn combinations to get the perfect color, or examining hundreds of mill-quality samples to find the best hand, perfecting each fabric takes work…[and] yards and yards of experimentation!”
Robert Allen fabric, from discarded pieces to shredded, usable material
The nonprofit was founded to address the 11.5 million tons of textiles wasted in America in 2015, which convert to 126 million cubic yards of landfill, which releases the harmful greenhouse gas methane as it decomposes. As part of the partnership, Robert Allen’s discarded textile scraps are transferred to portable bins; each month, Green Tree picks up scraps and shreds all of its collected textiles. The shredded textile is then repurposed as post-consumer fill and makes its way into pillows, stuffed toys or sustainable building installation.
Shares Tobias, “At Beacon Hill and Robert Allen, we are doing so much work to find the perfect color and quality that there is often a lot of beautiful fabric that’s left over that just doesn’t make the cut. I came across the statistic that 11 million tons of textiles are put into landfills every year. I knew there had to be a better way to dispose of the small portion of that textile waste coming from our studios. After a lengthy search for companies that we could partner with, we reached Serge [Lazarev] at Green Tree Textiles, who we’ve been working with ever since.”
How can designers or other members/firms in the industry become involved? “Green Tree Textiles is always looking for partners in the industry looking to forward the mission of textile recycling,” says Tobias. “Visit their site, GreenTreeTextiles.org/call-to-action, to learn how your organization can make a textile donation, sponsor a Green Box, and/or volunteer in the New York metro area.”