The Trash Blog

Our Social Fabric

I have realized that some of my clothes are perhaps no longer appropriate for daily wear. They’ve served me well and I refuse to believe that the only thing left for them is burial. I turned to the Internet to find a use for my worn-out clothing.

Pile of Cloth

No shortage of material out there.

A couple from Vancouver who made a movie about garbage that I haven’t seen (The Clean Bin Project) list an organization called Our Social Fabric on their resources page. They say, “Our Social Fabric takes cloth and textiles (including ripped clothing) near Commercial Drive” but also warn: “Update-They are full and no longer taking donations.”

The Recycling Council of British Columbia (RCBC) Tip of the Month for November 2010 called “Reuse and Recycle Textiles” says, “If you’re in the Metro Vancouver area, there is an organization called Our Social Fabric that accepts textile rags to create products like yoga bags.”

A website called Green Answers says that this Our Social Fabric group “Can either recycle fabrics as is if they are in good condition, or will shred and re-weave into bolts of fabric if they are not in good condition.” Green Answers provides a link to an ancient blog that is no longer active and at the bottom of this blog is a post that does indeed say that they will shred and re-weave old clothing. It was posted in 2009.

Now, this sounds like what I’m looking for. Surely there are some crafty people out there who can turn my worn out boxers into a work of art. If not, then perhaps it can be tossed in some shredder and broken down into something useful for carpet filler.

I checked Our Social Fabric’s new website to see how I should go about sending them my well-used, well-loved clothing. But then, under their donations tab, I read:

Please note that we DO NOT accept used clothing, sheets or towels. We do not have the resources to deal with them. Please take them to the appropriate charity shop or animal shelter. These donations unfortunately are destined for the garbage.

It seems that in the current age of online information, nobody actually bothers calling a body to ask what’s up. If it was said online, you can quote it and look good.

No help for my jacket, but Margaret and I were still curious about this group of people who were trying to recycle fabric and it happened that they were having one of their monthly fabric sales soon, so we went to have a looksee.

Woman with Bolts of Cloth Widescreen

Notice the bolt of yellow fabric in the background: that was the cloth used for David Bowie’s underwear his Zoolander cameo.

The sale was being held in a storage unit building. We followed the people clutching bolts of cloth and swatches of fabric. Through a glass door, up a long narrow staircase and all of a sudden we were in a room packed with more than forty people rooting through cloth and haggling over buttons.

Workers Cutting Fabric

The volunteer workers of Our Social Fabric measuring and chopping from a bolt of cloth that was used to make the kilt Mel Gibson wore in Braveheart.

Boxes on the floor, bolts on shelves, bolts leaning against the wall, bags of buttons, and a few piles of cloth littered about. A volunteer proffered a bag, but we said we were there for information. She introduced us to Andrew.

Sucker for Colors

This stripey stuff looked pretty cool, but it had a bit of a funky smell.

Andrew is one of the board members of Our Social Fabric and kindly took the time to explain what they were about. He told us that Our Social Fabric has been around for five years or so, repurposing fabric that would otherwise end up in the landfill. The organization began because several people who had ties to the film industry noticed that large amounts of perfectly good fabric were being thrown away. Maybe a costume designer would purchase a bolt of fabric to make a shirt, when the film’s production run was over, whatever was left was garbaged.

Our Social Fabric receives donations from the film industry, from upholsterers, and the textile industry. They keep the donations in a storage unit in Vancouver and hold monthly sales. I was surprised by how much interest there was. Andrew said crafters, designers, and community groups often come to Our Social Fabric to get fabrics for different projects. The money from their sales pays for the storage unit and the other expenses of the organization.

Andrew and Our Social Fabric have big plans for the future. They are looking for a more permanent space so they can hold sales more frequently and ultimately are hoping to have a store.

As with so many other places, Andrew told me that there wasn’t really any use for my jacket. Cut it into rags for myself or send it to land of away.

Right back where I started from.

Right back where I started from.

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This entry was written by Philip and published on March 12, 2013 at 1:16 am. It’s filed under Non-profits, Re-Use, Recycling, Textiles and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

4 thoughts on “Our Social Fabric

  1. Our Social Fabric definitely used to take used textiles like clothing – I even dropped a bag off myself – but it looks like they have focused their project a little more. My rag bag is much much too full of old towels and cloths dutifully cut into squares, but there are only so many rags you can have. These days I try to buy better quality things, or get cotton ebcause at least I can shred that and put it in the compost.

  2. Our Social Fabric definitely used to take clothing because I dropped a bag off myself. Guess they have focused their project. I would love to hear of local textile shredders who can actually recycle fabric. In the meantime, I have a rag bag brimming with squares of old towels and t-shirts, and I try to buy cotton as much as possible because I figure I can at least put it in the compost.

  3. Chris Stewart on said:

    Another well-written post.

    However, the economic cost/benefit question always occurs to me whether the carbon foot print associated with taking used clothing to the repurposer, with the repurposers efforts to rehabilitate the used material, and with the buyers of the repurposer’s taking the recycled material to its new destination is offset by the damage done taking the discarded item to a landfill.

  4. Pingback: Who Wants My Worn Out Jacket? | The Trash Blog

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