When a 2005 study showed that some 84,000 tons of clothing, 45,000 tons of linens, and 23,000 tons of shoes and accessories were being disposed of annually by residents of The Big Apple, the city began work on a program to divert this waste stream. A program was needed to divert the textile tide toward consignment and away from landfills; re-fashioNYC was born.

Launched in May 2011, re-fashioNYC places bins in buildings throughout the five boroughs. Textiles are deposited, pick-ups arranged, and donations managed. As of fall 2012, re-fashioNYC had collected more than 124 tons of textiles.

Buildings with at least ten units in any neighborhood are eligible to participate in re-fashioNYC. Once a building agrees to host the bin, a re-fashioNYC representative visits the site, meeting with building staff to discuss program operations including locations for bins, bin installation, maintenance, and collection procedures. Once installed, residents can donate any clean fabric material including clothing, towels, linens, curtains, clean rags, shoes, belts and handbags.

When the bin becomes full, the on-location bin monitor calls or emails for pickup, which is guaranteed within 5 business days. This extra time allows requests to be grouped and routed to minimize truck travel, thus saving on labor, fuel costs, and emissions.

Donations received by re-fashioNYC are transported to Housing Works warehouse in Queens for sorting. Housing Works – contract winner of the re-fashioNYC program – is responsible for reporting diverted tonnages to as part of the city’s sustainability tracking under PlaNYC.

Donations are sold in Housing Works’ shops or at “all-you-can-stuff” warehouse sales. Some leftovers from these sales are shipped to a nonprofit thrift shop in Haiti, while others are sold through local nonprofit thrift shops or recycled.

Since re-fashioNYC’s inception, 185 bins have been placed in 161 buildings, providing service to 38,505 units. In the first year, the bins collected 247,928 pounds of material and generated revenue of $225,540.50, all of which has been reinvested in the program. Each month, the material collected through re-fashioNYC increased by an average of 4,167 pounds. The program is free of charge and offers tax receipts to those who donate.