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Episode 168: EPR & Textile Stewardship with Joanne of CPSC

This week, Amanda is joined by Joanne Brasch, PhD, the Special Projects Manager for the California Product Stewardship Council (CPSC). She is going to help us understand how EPR works and how it will impact business, planet, communities, and us as consumers. She also will tell us about all of the projects and stakeholders involved in CPSC’s projects and legislation goals.  And she will tell us how we can practice our own “textile stewardship.” This episode also includes a message from Erin.  Disclaimer from Amanda: I thought I did a good job of responding to Erin’s message while I was writing and recording my response, but when I uploaded the transcript of her message, I realized that I did not address her questions about advertising, which I’ll talk about more in the next episode!

CPSC Textile Stewardship
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Transcript

Welcome to Clotheshorse, the podcast that…has been around for three years!!! The first episode was released on July 12, 2020…which feels like a million years ago, in terms of all of the things I have learned over the past few years, all the things we have experienced collectively, and just life. Wow, a lot of life has happened in three years! And I’m really proud to say that…a lot of podcasts appeared in 2020 and 2021…and a lot of them are gone now. But Clotheshorse is still going strong and it feels like it has picked up so much momentum this year alone. So I’m excited to see what will happen next.

Anyway, I’m your host, Amanda, and this is episode 168. I’m really excited for you to meet today’s guest because she’s going to teach us more about EPR (extended producer responsibility. Joanne is the Special Projects Manager for the California Product Stewardship Council (CPSC). Her background is in textile science and the global industrial systems for food and fibers. She has won various awards over the years for her research into these topics. Joanne was the Sustainability Researcher for the UC Davis Health System, leading projects for waste mitigation and more “environmentally friendly” purchasing options for the campus. Her efforts with the UCD Health System lead to systematic reduction of textile products in the hospital waste stream and cost-savings for the entire health system.

Today she’s going to help us understand how EPR works and how it will impact business, planet, communities, and us as consumers. She also will tell us about all of the projects and stakeholders involved in CPSC’s projects and legislation goals. And she will tell us how we can practice our own “textile stewardship.”

 

Three years ago today, I was living in Philadelphia. I had just lost my job working in the buying department of a rental brand after months of being on furlough. In some ways, losing my job felt like a massive relief. I had spent the last few weeks of my employment (before being furloughed) canceling every single order in our system, as directed by our executive leadership. This meant canceling orders that had already been produced: some were already in the US, others were on a boat/plane, and many were at the port overseas, waiting to ship. Many others had already been cut or partially made. And that entire process was sickening. Sales reps cried and many lost their jobs the same week we canceled. Vendors pleaded for another solution because this would destroy the businesses. Small brands/designers were very nearly or completely ruined financially.

That experience had underscored the cruelty of prioritizing profits over people. And this approach wasn’t unique to that rental brand or the fast fashion company that owned it. It was the way the entire retail and fashion industry had been doing business for a very long time. I could follow the thread all the way back to the retail jobs that I had worked as a teenager and young adult. The low wages and lack of consistent scheduling. The way we would all be kept just under regular full-time hours so we couldn’t get benefits. The policies that reminded us every day that the company believed we were all criminals first, bodies to do a job second. Our humanity wasn’t even up for discussion.

Further reading and research during my furlough revealed so much more of the cruel, inhuman nature of the fashion industry. The exploitation of all of the humans involved in making our clothing (and its individual elements). The pollution and waste. The fundamental disregard for people and planet.

So in some ways, being laid off was a relief. How could I ever return to that job and pretend that everything was okay?

But it was also super scary. There would be no jobs on the horizon. When you’ve reached the leadership level of your career, there are a lot less jobs out there. And they open up less frequently.

My employer gave me two weeks of severance, which was nothing after more than ten years of service with that company. They cut off my health insurance a week later. These stingy decisions were explained to me as the result of the “unprecedented” nature of the pandemic and the damage it was doing to the company.

A week later, I was bombarded with articles declaring my former employer’s “surprise” profit for that quarter. That profit consisted entirely of lost wages: store employees who had been furloughed for months, garment workers who went unpaid for the work they did when orders were canceled, and corporate workers like myself who had been furloughed and laid off.

Things felt dark and hopeless.

During my furlough, I had been thinking a lot about the fashion industry. How glamorous people thought it was. How self-important all of the media coverage of FASHION was. The way a love of clothing and shopping was seen as a whole persona, a character trope. I laughed thinking about all the times over the years when I told someone what I did for a living, how they immediately assumed I was glamorous and fabulous. But really I had spent years being super stressed out, eating overpriced salads, and hunching over a spreadsheet.

What if people knew the things that I knew about the industry? Would this change their feelings toward clothing and shopping?

I started Clotheshorse as an experiment. Would people be interested in hearing about all of the dark shit my coworkers and I had been compartmentalizing for years? Or would it be too boring, too depressing? Would it ruin the implied “fun” of clothes and shopping?

I was afraid of failure, but I also felt as if I had nothing to lose. I knew nothing about making a podcast, so the first thing I learned was that making a (good) podcast is a lot more work than you might imagine. There is a lot of research, writing, outreach, and strategy. And lots of tiny annoying tasks, like making a website, writing show notes, and dealing with all of the various apps and platforms required to make a podcast accessible to as many people as possible. Dustin gave me a crash course in editing, production, and sound. He still does all of the final audio production and I am very grateful. I have made some major sound quality bloopers over the years and he always figures out how to fix it.

Next I learned Figma, Photoshop, and lots of other graphic design stuff. Because it turned out that a lot of people wanted the information I was sharing, but they wanted it on social media. Here’s the thing about all of the infographics: OMGFG they are so much more work than any observer might imagine. The average IG post takes about 3 hours to create, sometimes less if I already have copy or art ready to go. It’s all about finding the perfect balance of info, readability/accessibility, and aesthetic on every single slide. It’s a visual and intellectual logic problem!

But beyond graphic design and audio editing, I’ve learned so much over the years. Some of it is straight up statistics and how the global supply chain works. Certainly I’ve learned way too much about how synthetic fabrics are made, no one will probably ever invite me to a party again.

I’ve learned to always use the IG features that allow you to keep trolls out of your life. To be honest, I’ve learned way too much about trolls and their pattern of escalation.

I’ve learned to get it all in writing (I’ve had some bad partnerships that taught me some difficult lessons), specifically last year.

But I’ve learned so many other things that have helped me grow as a leader in this community, as a person who has the unique opportunity and privilege of a platform that reaches others. These are things that have changed me as a person, that have helped me grow and connect better with the people around me.

Talking about fast fashion isn’t classist (if you’re doing it right). In the first year or so of Clotheshorse, every time I posted anything about the fast fashion business model, like clockwork, someone would show up in the comment section to call me classist. And it would kinda flummox me, because I didn’t know how to respond to these people (and honestly, no response ever “fixed” the situation).

What I realized over time is that these conversations are tough, shocking, downright depressing. All of us handle tough information in different ways: abject panic, depression, ignoring it, or anger. So yeah, for every message I have received over the years asking for more information or thanking me for sharing information, I received angry ones that accuse me of being classist or an “out-of-touch privileged rich white lady.” (Btw, I’m non-binary so please stop sending me messages calling me a lady because it is hurtful).

For those of you who are new around here, I grew up low income and I have been called “white trash” and “trailer trash” more often than I’ve been called anything nice! I’ve been on food stamps and government assistance, I wouldn’t have been able to receive medical care when I gave birth to my daughter without Medicaid coverage, and I know way too well what it’s like to not be able to see a doctor or dentist because you don’t have the money. I don’t own a home and the car I share with my husband is 20 years old.

In fact, it’s my background and my own financial situation that makes me super passionate about this work because it is the poorest people on this planet who bear the brunt of fast fashion’s disastrous business model. By virtue of being born in Pennsylvania, my family does not work in garment factories, but most have been working in the retail industry in stores and warehouses. And these jobs kept/keep them struggling. All of us–no matter where we live or what we do for a living–are experiencing the repercussions of fast fashion, microplastics in the water, soil, and food supply, water scarcity, the impact of carbon emissions, and even the emotionally corrosive nature of a steady stream of low quality/poor fitting clothing.

It’s not classist to talk about fast fashion. And it’s time for all of us to talk about it with as many as people as possible. Fast fashion actually exacerbates economic inequality. It sets the precedent for underpaying people. It keeps people poor. It keeps customers on a hamster wheel of shopping that strips them of their own financial health.

Shame and guilt are not the way forward in conversations about consumption, fast fashion, etc. I have seen a major shift in the way we have conversations about fast fashion and shopping over the last few years. But in 2020 and 2021, so much social media content around these topics was really shame focused. That people should feel bad for making the “wrong” decisions or not knowing why they were “wrong” in the first place. These conversations always lacked the necessary nuance that explained WHY so-called “sustainable brands” weren’t accessible to many, many people due to barriers of price, size inclusivity, availability, and aesthetic. In fact, that brings me to the next thing I have learned…

3. Meet people where they are. Skipping fast fashion is hard. We’ve grown up in a culture of shopping that makes it really really hard to change.

You know, before I continue with this, let’s listen to a message from Erin the Librarian–a recurring voice around here, although she hasn’t called in for a while, so it was super nice to hear from her–let’s listen to this message from Erin because it’s really part of this conversation about meeting people where they are.

 

Hey Amanda. First I wanted to say congratulations on three years of Clotheshorse. Seeing that it was your three year anniversary today on social media reminded me of when you had the hotline that first year of closers, and they called it a few times to pose some questions to you. Well, in honor of that, here’s another unsolicited audio recording for you.

First, I’ll preface this by saying that I still buy new clothes. I’m definitely a lot more thoughtful about it. For example, I bought a bathing suit recently. It’s from a retailer that I bought from before, and you all might have seen them on Instagram. But what I like about this brand compared to another one that’s out there is that they kind of just stick to swimsuits, they haven’t like ventured into clothing. I was really happy with the swimsuit I bought from there a few years ago. And since I live near the beach, I wanted another swimsuit to add to my rotation. And I bought one from them again this year. Really happy with it. More recently, I bought a new dress. I was in Arizona last month visiting my parents with my young son and I pretty much only pack T shirts and shorts because it’s hotter than Hades there. My brother and sister in law last minute gifted me with professional pictures of me, my son and my parents. I should also add that this was the last time I was going to be photographed with my dad as he had terminal cancer. So that kind of added pressure in my mind to look nice. I wanted something nice to wear. But I didn’t really have the time or ability to go looking for a secondhand option. I ended up buying a dress from this French clothing brand that was advertised to me on Instagram but also seemed to have good reviews from some people whose opinion I trusted and could ship to me in time for the photoshoot. I was really impressed with the quality and the style of the dress means I can wear it not just to a nice event, but I could also get away with wearing it to work. It’s also really comfortable. Now I’ll be the first to say that these probably aren’t the most ethical or sustainable brands out there. But they aren’t the worst offenders either. And I’m really happy with the items I bought, and I know a lot of use out of them.

With that said the swimsuit brain has since tried to get me to join a rewards program. But like how many bathing suits does one person need. I live near the beach and my parents have a pool and I only have three swimsuits. And assuming I take care of them, I shouldn’t be buying them constantly. Who out there is needing a ton of swimsuits that could benefit from a rewards program. As for the French brand, their advertising seems to have an air of like, don’t you want to be cool and French and live this easygoing lifestyle.

I will say I’ve recently lost my dad to the cancer. And I also lost one of my cats soon after. So I really found myself feeling the pull of this like aspirational advertising. And I was like perusing the website looking for like other stuff I could buy until I was like, wait a minute, I know what you’re doing. So all of this is to say that like, Do you think there’s an ethical way to advertise to people and let them know that you exist without making them feel bad or making them feel anxious or like trying to get them to over consume?

As I try to spread the gospel of slow fashion to people in my circle, there are people that are like, Listen, I’m all about trying to be more sustainable, but I do not want to buy secondhand clothing. And rather than argue with them, I’m trying to meet them halfway like have you thought about trying to shop less, and that seems to be a better sell. But then when someone does need to buy something new, how do they know what’s out there? How can they stay strong when brands feel like they need to use these tactics to sell to us? And if you’re someone running a small, sustainable business, like how do you compete, I was able to make good decisions when it did buy those two new things. But it’s really hard even after being on this slow fashion journey for a few years. Just like not get sucked in. And I’m curious what you think about all this. Congratulations again and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you and for Clotheshorse.

 

First off, I just want to say Erin, that I am so sorry for your losses. I know that mere words don’t do very much when you are navigating grief, but know that I am thinking of you.

Next, guess what? The Clotheshorse hotline DOES still exist, I just keep forgetting to remind people to call! The phone number is 717.925.7417. And Google is actually threatening to disconnect the number if someone doesn’t call me on it by the end of July. So maybe this is a great time to remind you that you can call and leave a message any time! I’ll put that number in the show notes.

Okay, so let’s talk about Erin’s quandary: talking to people about consumption who maybe don’t want to have the conversation or aren’t as immersed in it as we are.

This is where “meeting people where they are” really comes into play. Listen, shopping, new clothes, fast fashion…they are woven into our culture and social behavior at this point. And we’ve been swimming in it since birth. Think about it:

We’ve been told our entire lives that new stuff=happiness

We are exposed to advertising every where we look: social media, streaming platforms, billboards, haul videos, etc. There are even ads in stalls in public restrooms!

Social media has reinforced the idea that we need to wear something new for every event.

Magazines and blogs reinforce the idea that new clothes, makeup, etc. will “fix” our problems. That’s basically the plot of a ton of movies I saw as a child and teenager!

At face value, fast fashion is more affordable and often more size inclusive.

So this is the world we know. It’s programmed deep into our brains. People literally cite shopping as a hobby and for many it’s a social activity.

But here’s the thing…we have to move away from it, right? The future literally depends on it.

Our planet and its people can no longer support the repercussions of overconsumption in the fast fashion era. And while clothing is a big part of it, this “fast” consumption extends to all categories of stuff.

The fast fashion model of “buy as much stuff as possible, as often as possible” eats up resources like water and energy at an unsustainable rate.

Nothing is disposable, yet this illusion of disposability has lead to pollution consisting solely of unwanted clothing.

The low prices of fast fashion (and everything else) are unachievable without exploitation of the humans making our stuff.

So where do I start with people? Well, it’s with information. Maybe not going super hard right out of the gate. Like, maybe we hold off on the photos from Accra or the Atacama Desert for the next conversation. Or maybe that’s the jump off? It’s pretty shocking, that’s for sure. If that’s what will get someone to listen, go for it. But even sharing that kind of information tends to let us think that fast fashion and overconsumption are someone else’s problem, that it’s happening far, far away from here.

But the reality is that even if you don’t work in a factory, warehouse, or store, fast fashion is having a negative impact on you. That’s kinda where I like to start with people. Like, “HEY! This is affecting you and everyone you know.” I like to remind them of these points:

Just about everything we buy brand new is not built to last. Planned obsolescence ensures that we will have to buy a replacement in the near future. This shortened product life cycle means we end up spending more money over time.

Clothing costs less now than it did in the 1990s, but this magical low price means that the fabric and trims don’t have a lot of longevity. This also has an impact on our individual financial situation.

The poor fit and arbitrary sizing of clothing has a negative impact on our mental health and our relationship with our bodies.

Does any of this new stuff really make us happy?

And no matter where you live on the planet you are experiencing the environmental impact of the production and disposal of fast fashion and all of the other stuff we consume. That includes microplastics in our water, soil, and food, climate change, and air/water pollution.

The reality is that sometimes it’s just too hard for an individual to think about someone they don’t know. But it’s easy to think about themselves, right? And I think pointing out these truths can be beneficial, but doesn’t lead with guilt. It’s not “you should feel bad about what’s happening to these other people,” it’s “this is hurting YOU.”

And then where does it go next? I think it’s important to remember that there is no “one easy fix” to a more sustainable lifestyle. For some of us, shopping secondhand is our first step. For others, it’s skipping a big clearance sale. Or learning more about laundry and mending. The thing about all of this, is that any of these moves can end up being step one in a journey into slow fashion.

That’s where community comes into play. When your instagram feed is all Amazon and Target influencers, you aren’t exposed to slow fashion. Right? But when your friends and family are posting about mending this thing or what they found out thrifting last week, suddenly the wheels start turning. Suddenly there are other options. And then you follow new accounts, see more new ideas, find yourself going down this rabbithole of slow fashion and buying less. You join your local Buy Nothing group and find this whole new world of neighbors. It feels natural, fun, like you’re part of something. Many of us–including myself–have lived this experience first hand over the last few years. Now we can be the friends and family that expose others to new ideas, right? We are the pillars of this community that we’ve been growing within, and now we can bring more people into the fold (and get them to opt out of a silly bathing suit rewards programs). Which brings me to my last two important lessons learned over the past three years…

One person can’t change the world alone, but when we work together, we can start social trends with major impact. Another common response to social media posts back in 2020-21 always happened like clockwork, too was “it’s not the responsibility of individuals to change.” and “my impact will never be as significant as Amazon’s, so why bother.” These were comments that also–pardon my french–really fucked with me because I didn’t know what to say. Or it’s like, in my heart I knew what to say but I was afraid of it turning into a comment war. Because the fact of the matter—and I knew this back then, too–was that Amazon didn’t happen in a bubble. Amazon became what it is because everyone started buying tons of shit from them all the time. Walmart killed local businesses in small towns because people preferred the lower prices and convenience of Wal-Mart. I get why customers would shift to Amazon or Wal-Mart because most of us don’t have the privilege of time and money, right? But we also have to reconcile that with the repercussions of it. These systems don’t set us up for success, right? These systems are flawed and exploitative. But they are examples of what happens when many individuals start doing the same thing at the same time. Maybe we didn’t collectively decide–like we didn’t have a big meeting where we said “okay, now we only buy things from Amazon–but nonetheless, we all took the same action at the same time and the impact was huge.

Those are some examples of bad changes that came from many people adopting the same behavior at the same time, but there are good things too:

The writers and now actors strike. This could be a huge change for the entertainment industry. And this happened with a lot of people working together to make that decision.

Or how about the rise of all of these secondhand platforms that make it easier to shop secondhand? That happened because more and more people are interested in shopping and selling secondhand. More people are seeing the value of clothing extends much longer.

What else? Buy Nothing groups, more and more creative reuse centers, even the way the use of harmful, ableist language is becoming more and more socially unacceptable. That’s because people said something about it, others heard it, told others, and it spread and spread. I could go on all day.

The point is, change happens when we all do it together. When we welcome more people to our community, we form a whole ass movement…which to be honest, I think we are experiencing right now! Yes, slow fashion and anticonsumerism is a MOVEMENT! And I do see the changes happening.

Which brings me to the final thing I’ve learned over the past three years: It’s progress, not perfection (and the patience that is required for slow progress).

I’ve seen a lot of progress over the past few years! There are indicators of a larger social change all around us:

The success of the #PayUp movement

A large shift into shopping secondhand

Bigger conversations about why we shop and how we change that

Mainstream media outlets running segments about the impact of fast fashion.

The way we talk about “sustainable” fashion over the past few years has changed, too! It’s more intersectional, and less shopping focused!

It’s fun to look back and be like OMG THIS IS HAPPENING! But it happened kinda slowly, right? LIke we didn’t see it day by day, but three years later, we can see a lot of evidence that this movement is making progress. And it’s progress driven by individuals, by you and me, and everyone in our community. It wouldn’t be happening if we hadn’t started working on this in the first place. If we had just put our arms up in defeat and said “eh, I can’t really do much as a singular person.”

As for me, I plan on continuing to work on Clotheshorse as long as possible. In the beginning, I wondered “How long can we talk about this stuff?” But over time, the conversations have changed and evolved, more voices have been featured on my platform, and it turns out that there is still so much more to discuss!

I also want to take a moment to thank all of the incredible guests who have shared their time and expertise over the last few years! Some are long time friends and others are new friends. I am grateful for Clotheshorse for giving me this chance to get to know all of them.

In fact, the people aspect of Clotheshorse is my favorite thing about it all. I have met so many smart, funny, talented, interesting people over the last few years that I would have never met otherwise. I am so grateful for this community. You have kept me going during some really, really hard times. And you have reminded me of my value when other aspects of my life have stripped away my self esteem. THANK YOU!

I am still trying to figure out how to make Clotheshorse financially sustainable. For the past few years, the salary from my job has subsidized this work. Now that I have left that job, the support of the community is more important than ever. Please consider supporting via Patreon or other sources (links in bio). Or advertising your business on Clotheshorse! You can also hire me to speak at events or even utilize my expertise as a consultant for your business (learn more at clotheshorseconsulting.com)

Okay, here’s to three more years!!! And thank you so much to Erin for calling in! It was so nice to hear your voice!

Alright, after that loooonnnng introduction, let’s jump into my conversation with Joanne!

 

Amanda:

So I’m just going to ask you to introduce yourself to everyone.

Joanne Brasch:

Hi everyone, my name is Joanne Brasch and I’m with the California Product Stewardship Council. My pronouns are she, her.

Amanda:

And what is the California Product Stewardship Council?

Joanne Brasch:

We’re a nonprofit. We’re based out of Sacramento, California. And we do two things. We do education and we do advocacy. So how I fill my day is through a lot of grant projects, pilot projects, but most importantly is the legislation that we work on through our advocacy work.

Amanda:

And how did you get into this? Because obviously, I did some Googling, I read your bio, and I thought it was, you’ve done some really incredible work with the UC Davis Health System that I found fascinating, because when people talk about textile waste, they usually just think of clothing, which obviously is a big part of it. But you were working on another aspect of textile waste there.

Joanne Brasch:

Yeah, thank you so much for noticing. That’s one of my most proudest career attributes is how long I have successfully avoided fashion.

Amanda:

Yay!

Joanne Brasch:

Yeah, until a few years ago, once I really joined CPSC about five years ago, most of my work was in protective clothing, functional clothing, and my research was in hospital waste

and how technical fabrics and functional fabrics can reduce waste in a hospital and healthcare setting. But ultimately, I mean, I had a really large budget at the UC Davis Health System to kind of adopt these reusable surgical items, but the biggest barrier was policy. So most people don’t realize that like I crossed over into policy work through hospital trash. So I’m really well versed in like biohazardous waste requirements and you know. the really, really gross stuff that no one wants to talk.

Amanda:

When you were growing up, did you imagine a future for yourself where you would be really wrapped up in bio waste?

Joanne Brasch:

No one chooses the trash life, the trash life chooses you.

Amanda:

So true.

Joanne Brasch:

But we call it the wonderful world of waste, because when you talk about like the colleagues we work it with, and some of the conferences that are happening in this space around the country and around the world, I mean, everyone’s really passionate in this space. Because as long as you’ve worked in trash, you see the ugliest side of commodities and commodification.

Amanda:

Whew, I bet, I bet. So, primarily today we’re gonna be talking about your work on textile stewardship, but I thought we could get started by talking about EPR. Because as I was telling you before we started recording, many listeners of Close Hours are very excited to learn more about EPR. So, to get started, what is it?

Joanne Brasch:

So EPR is Extended Producer Responsibility, and it’s a very specific policy. And it’s a model that is based off of the philosophy that if you have the producer of the products taking responsibility to the final disposition of the product’s life cycle, then that responsibility and that kind of ultimate business efficiency is going to internalize these impacts that have currently been externalized in these linear systems. And so waste is really just one of those externalized impacts. We also talk about toxics. We talk about microfibers. We talk about, you know, exposures and, you know, issues during the labor issues in the production process.

So, although my life is spent very deep in the waste world, EPR really kind of extends that responsibility to the producers of those individual products. So we have EPR in California and several states throughout the United States for different product types.

So there’s nothing in the United States for textiles and clothing, but we in California have 14 different varieties of EPR. policy tool, maybe ones that add a consumer facing fee. Like that’s not true EPR if there’s a public fee. That’s a publicly funded program. And you lose a lot of the philosophical momentum of producer funding. If they’re paying for it, it’s more reason for them to make it easier to collect, easier to disassemble, easier to identify. because they have to pay for that as incorporated into the product’s true cost.

Amanda:

And that’s a big sea change because right now, ultimately, with the exception of some categories in some states, most things you buy, when you are done with it, it is your job as the consumer to figure out what happens next, which could include paying to have it hauled away. ditching it somewhere and making it someone else’s problem, donating it and possibly making it the thrift store’s problem. So saying that the producers would be responsible financially for the end of life is a huge shift. How would this be different for consumers beyond, you know. maybe we don’t have to call 1-800-JUNK or something.

Joanne Brasch:

Ha ha.

Amanda:

How would this change the products we buy and what we do with them when we’re done with them?

Joanne Brasch:

So despite how big these EPR programs end up being, like big budgets, big outreach campaigns, a lot of the public doesn’t see too much of it.

Typically when we pass an EPR program or a legislation, the public doesn’t hear about it for maybe another four years.

Amanda:

Oh wow!

Joanne Brasch:

Yeah, it’s a long process to get the regulations written, to get the plan written and approved, and then to get that plan up and running. But typically by the time it hits the consumer facing disposal needs, you’re going to see really clear directions on where to take your textiles or whatever covered product it is. Once it meets, once you no longer want it. And so many people just like there’s literally nowhere to take our textiles that are unusable, you know, like at scale. And the key thing about EPR. for the public is that it’s free and it’s convenient. Because if it’s not free and convenient to the public, that’s when you start dealing with illegal dumping, or you start dealing with issues with contracts and your haulers. And you talked about the current system of funding are our waste. And so that happens with our local government. Every time they add a new program, The cost of that program gets split amongst the residents of that city or county, and that gets paid by your garbage rates. So garbage is actually not funded through general tax. It’s actually a rate payer. So it’s a fee. And one thing everyone who works in policy needs to know is the difference between a tax and a fee. So garbage is a fee because you get a service in exchange for that fee. So when we talk about EPR and we talk about programs, we’re talking about, let’s add more programs that are accessible to the residents without increasing our garbage bill. So that’s my job. Let’s get more recycling without higher bills.

Amanda:

I mean, you bring up a really good point that most people right now, I mean, the question I receive most often on social media is, what do I do with these textiles that are unusable? There’s no life back in them. Like this is it, right? And I never have a good answer because there isn’t one. So it’s exciting to think that that… could be a solution for everyone. At my last house before we moved here to Austin, we had to pay a private company to take our trash. And I always say that was when I became most aware of our trash and how much we created and how we could minimize that and find other places for things because we were charged by the amount of trash we put out. You know, whereas in other places I’d lived it was baked into some thing I was paying somewhere and I didn’t really have that awareness and it was just throw out as much trash as you want, right?

Joanne Brasch:

Mm-hmm, fill the bin.

Amanda:

Fill the bin and then some what have you. And I do think on one hand it’s great for us as consumers to have this concept of our waste, for it to be more clear that this is actually a service that is a very expensive service to fulfill, but also to have more options for what we do with things other than maybe the recycling bin, maybe the trash can, maybe here in Austin we have a compost bin as well. So I get really excited when I talk about, EPR, but one thing that I hear often is this concern that it will drive up prices of products for consumers. What are your thoughts on that?

Joanne Brasch:

consumers are already paying for it. And if we want a textile recycling program, your garbage rates are going to go up otherwise. So I say either way, if we want to create a program that has all the right steps in terms of reporting and transparency, there are some costs, but at the end of the day, it’s who’s paying it and what responsibility do they have by paying that? If it ends up being a consumer fee, which here in California, we pay recycling fees on a lot of items. So, you know, it’s, yeah, another product. But we’ve seen these studies happen on other products, like for the medicine EPR program. There was a study done by UCLA and they found, you know, for every hundred dollars of prescriptions, the EPR would bring it up like 13 cents. So, you know, there is an inherent cost. But when you’re talking about 13 cents on $100 for a super hazardous product, you can imagine it’s gonna be a much lower cost for textiles. And the philosophy is that, if you have a government run recycling program, you’re not gonna have the same efficiencies and the same access to knowledge of, what are these fiber blends? The industry knows that.

Amanda:

Right.

Joanne Brasch:

And… Fashion or textiles for one is one of those products that I would much rather see the industry run it than the government run it And that’s what EPR is

Amanda:

I agree, I agree. One thing that I have noticed in my experience as a buyer, but just also in my research, is that right now there’s basically this infinite number of combinations of textile blends right now. And one of the biggest arguments for EPR is that will force brands, manufacturers to reduce that and stick to a few that are more easily recycled. of EPR, how would this impact waste streams? Like right now, it seems most textiles end up just going to the landfill, right? Like an extraordinary amount every day. Would that change and where would they go? What would happen to them?

Joanne Brasch:

Well, you would think they’re just going to the landfill, but they’re not. They’re actually also ending up in our recycling streams. They’re ending up in illegally dumped in our environment, and then they’re ending up in the landfills abroad as well.

So one of the things that EPR really does is it takes responsibility for all those different streams of output. And Ultimately, it creates a source separated recycling program so it doesn’t mix in with the other products. We’ve seen cities in California try to put textiles into the blue bin. San Francisco and San Jose are those two prime examples. And what happened was they blend, they absorb with the liquids in your, you know, in your cans and food ware that get in the same recycling bin. So they absorb, then they tangle in the machines that are made for hard plastics. Every time they have to stop a machine and they’re cutting out of the cog wheels, it’s usually plastic bags and textiles. And what we found in those two cities was it costs more for them to maintain their machinery and pull the textiles out of the bins, then it was worth it. So just last week, CPSC was at the city of San Jose at the green waste facility. and they knew we were coming and we were doing a textile sort and a textile audit. And I’m not exaggerating when I tell you in a day and a half, so three shifts at the MRF, they pulled 5800 pounds of textiles off the recycling line. And they’re not supposed to be in the recycling bin.

Amanda:

Wow.

Joanne Brasch:

So that’s one city, one day, one line. And that does not include the landfill line. So if you’ve ever been to a MRF,, usually there’s like the landfill mixed solid waste, but then there’s, you know, the mixed recyclables are usually kind of like the clean side of the MRF

And so they were pulling the textiles from the clean side of the MRF, even though they weren’t clean.

5,800 pounds in less than 48 hours.

Amanda:

And are people doing that because they just don’t know what to do with them, or is there confusion about textiles being recyclable?

Joanne Brasch:

both. There’s confusion because in the city of San Jose, when they decided, you know, a few years ago that just really didn’t work, it becomes down to education. Like, how do you stop a program once it’s begun? So the other problem is, yeah, they think it’s just recyclable. They think it’s going to be picked out. They think it’s plastic. It’s polyester. lot of reasons. And the other thing is we’re not really seeing what is going to the landfill from the thrifts. A lot of them self haul.

Amanda:

yeah, yeah. Yeah, I mean, one thing we talk about quite often here on Closed Horse is how really the thrift industry at this point primarily functions in terms of logistics, moving this product around from facility to facility. And it’s one of the big drivers of the increase in thrift store prices. because they’re left with all the stuff that they have to take somewhere. We’ve had some guests who’ve worked, for example, for the Goodwill, and these things can be moved around to multiple locations before finally being either sold or disposed of. So it’s a lot of stuff moving around every single day.

Joanne Brasch:

So much stuff.

Amanda:

So much stuff.

Joanne Brasch:

I think I know. And then I spend a day on these audits or even at a Goodwill warehouse. And I just get so humbled. Oh my god, it’s so much stuff.

Amanda:

So much stuff, yeah, it’s really, really wild. It’s way more than any of us. I think in our minds, we think it’s like what we see in the store, and that’s just like the tip of the iceberg in terms of the product moving in and out of these locations every day. So for the actual producers of these items, how would EPR impact them? Would it be a major financial burden, or is there a way they can mitigate that?

Joanne Brasch:

They can absolutely mitigate it by adopting and using materials that are easier to recycle, by working with collection partners that offer convenience to the consumers. So the great thing about EPR programs is it allows a lot of flexibility. And we actually are not limiting how many producer responsibility organizations we will allow in California. For some product types, they say just one. or each organization needs to have at least 20% of the market share, we actually are proposing, like, let’s see who shows up to the table to actually lead on some of these programs for textiles and clothing.

Amanda:

And so how would EPR be implemented, like in the ideal way, in terms of clothing and textiles? What would that look like?

Joanne Brasch:

I will say it’s really different in California than it is around the world, especially in Europe. There’s a lot of proposals going on in Europe right now. And they’re looking and talking about how we can really kind of copy and match and standardize as much as we can. But ultimately in California, we’re more likely to follow the precedents and the programs we’ve set. So the style

that’s already been established in California. So here in California, there’s a couple of things that are really standard in our example 14 other programs. And one of the key things is that the PRO, which is the Producer Responsibility Organization, is a nonprofit. That’s a non-negotiable for us. We’ve seen in the past them try to be They were trying to be like a 501C6, which is a trade association or a C4. And what we realized is without that IRS C3 nonprofit, we didn’t get the transparency we needed.

Some of the other things that are really key to California style EPR programs is that we do not have design mandates or program prescriptions. So we don’t tell them how to collect. We just say there has to be a minimum of this much collection per capita. Or one of the things we say in our bill SB-707 is, which I don’t know if we’ve introduced quite yet. One of the things we propose in EPR in California is a lot of the collection hosts who want to be in the part, program can’t be denied. So we don’t force anyone to be a collection host. Just because you’re a retailer in California, you don’t have to have a bin at your store. But if you want

one, you can’t get denied. So we have a lot of opt-in. We have a lot of incentives and not a lot of mandates or prescriptions. So that’s really the California style. And the way it really works is the brands group together. and they write a plan on how they’re gonna meet these performance requirements. And every five years, there’s a new plan. So we

have flexibility. If you write it in the law and it’s a government run program, if there needs to be a change, you have to change the law. But with a fast moving market, like fashion and textiles and, you know, sustainability, you need a program who can… that can adapt to the market. So as we incentivize green design, so let’s say we incentivize durability or we incentivize less blends, those producers will automatically be not only paying less in, receiving some of the benefits as well.

Amanda:

Oh, okay.

Joanne Brasch:

The other great example is we don’t have a recycled content mandate. 30% by 3030. Like that’s not a requirement because it’s not practical for every product. So

instead, you know, they’ll just pay less if they have recycled content. There we go.

Amanda:

Yeah, I mean, that’s an incentive in itself. One company that comes up a lot that has its own sort of take back program that is problematic is H&M. And I’m sure all of you have talked about H&M amongst yourselves at least where customers are incentivized to donate their clothing to the store’s bin and they get a coupon for a discount. But what’s come up time and time again over the past few years is those clothes weren’t really being recycled in the way that customers thought. ending up overseas and becoming someone else’s problem. So what would happen if, say, I don’t know why this retailer came into my head right away. It was like Kohl’s, right? If Kohl’s had started having drop-offs at their store for post-consumer textiles, what would happen to them when they leave the store? The clothes, not the customers.

Joanne Brasch:

Yeah, so one of the great things about the California style EPR is the tracking and reporting. We

get precedent level transparency where we, in our annual reports, and I say our, but in CalRecycles, they receive the annual report every year from these PROs. And in those annual report, they say exactly how much was collected where, where it went, and what products it became. Um, so I will say, um, I know you, you talk about H and M and they talk a lot about H and M. And I will actually start by thanking H and M for endorsing SB 707, which is the textile EPR bill in California. And we welcome them to the California style EPR.

I’ve worked really closely with them and I will say, I think all the suggested amendments that they have made on the bill in California. have made it stronger for everyone. And I will say they have been doing it for a long time, but this will be their first time in California. So we welcome them and that information will be publicly available through California style public agencies. So again, it’s not really about having all the details in the textile program specifically. but leaning

on the other accomplishments of our government and our agencies that aid in the implementation. They put their necks out there for the carpet program. They’ve taken them to court and won for that EPR program. They have out there writing the regs for the EPR program for packaging. If they can get through packaging, they can easily get through textiles.

Amanda:

I’m excited about packaging because I feel like that’s something most people don’t think about that It generates an incredible amount of waste at this point in The e-commerce era so that’s really exciting. I mean, but just like also food packaging I mean, there’s something that’s sort of invisible in a strange way to so many people

Joanne Brasch:

one of the other really great components of the California style EPR programs are kind of our definitions. So we talked about packaging, those set some really global precedent definitions on how we define recycling. And similarly in SB 707, the textile EPR bill in California, we set a precedent definition. specifically for textile recycling, because we see a lot of greenwashing happening. And we feel like that definition alone will eliminate some of the collectors and brokers who are collecting under the guise of recycling, but ultimately dumping as reuse. So this bill actually eliminates that and adds the transparency at an enforceable level. When we talk about enforcement, that’s when I get excited. Ha ha!

Amanda:

I kind of get excited about the enforcement too actually.

Joanne Brasch:

Ha ha!

Amanda:

So what are the biggest obstacles to getting EPR passed? I mean obviously like California is a very special state right? But we’re not seeing this happening across the United States much less across the globe. What are the biggest obstacles both in California but also outside of California that are preventing this from being just the way it goes everywhere?

Joanne Brasch:

Well, I also will give a shout out to New York. So they also introduced a textile EPR bill. And with those being the highest concentrations of textiles, it’s great to see the lead. But you never know, Washington and Oregon come out sometimes of left field with their own EPR bills.

But the biggest thing is education. And that’s why I’m so excited to be here today, because they are complicated programs. And it means different things for different programs, like brands. If you make accessories out of recycled resin pieces, that’s a different meaning than the transnational multi-fiber blend fast fashions. So for me, and my interpretation of the biggest challenge is the education and getting all the stakeholders to understand what their role is if this program passes. So CPSC, our leadership, in EPR isn’t that we know everything. Actually, we never know everything and we know that.

Our skills are to get all the stakeholders to the table, to get through the legislative process together, and all be like equally unhappy. Like none of us is gonna get all we want. I’ll even admit, I’m not gonna get everything I want out of a bill, but let’s all design a program that we can be proud to start. together, knowing that there’s opportunities in the future to improve and tinker with cleanup bills.

Amanda:

Yeah, I mean, I think that’s a really important call out. I think it can be really easy to feel sort of demoralized when a bill is passed and not in the purest form that you imagined, but that is the nature of legislation. It’s negotiation and compromise, and it has to start somewhere, right?

Joanne Brasch:

Absolutely.

Amanda:

So let’s talk about the work CPSC, let me try that again. Let’s talk about the work that CPSC is doing with textile stewardship. Based on all the information you sent me in advance, this work involves many facets of the supply chain, which is the kind of thing I really geek out on. I love seeing all the different stops along the way. I love thinking about all the different elements of a product life cycle. So I would love to talk about how all these different and aspects impact textile stewardship and how you’re working to make them better? Because I think some people are like, okay, well, it’s the place where you bought the clothes and then the customers and like that’s it, but it’s actually way more complex, complex than that, right? There are so many stakeholders, so many stops along the line for textiles. So starting with, I mean, this is the obvious one, large brands and retailers, how are you getting them on board with textile stewardship?

Joanne Brasch:

Yeah, absolutely. So we have for the last three and a half years, we have a textile advisory committee that we’ve been hosting, who really have been guiding CPSC with our pilot projects, with our policy work. And they were really core to helping CPSC develop the model that was used for SB707. We have a couple of big brands on that one, but we’ve also worked with some of the big associations. So… retailers associations and I don’t want to name too many by name until they endorse the bill but we meet non-stop with the association so if they’re not trickling down information to their members I really asked the big brands and retailers like if those associations are doing the work that they need and sharing the information because I’ve met with all of them lots of times in the last six months So I keep hearing from the brands that they don’t know much about the bill. So I’m curious, yeah, why, who’s gatekeeping there?

Amanda:

Yeah, that’s frustrating for sure.

Joanne Brasch:

But we do, so we have an active social media, we have a public listserv, we have publicly funded pilot projects, we do free webinars. We do a lot that is publicly accessible, given our funding base

Amanda:

And then what about another aspect of this project is working with commercial textile waste generators, which you should probably define first.

Joanne Brasch:

so in the waste world you have your residential waste generators. Those are coming from your apartments and your single family households. Those wastes are usually serviced by a franchise hauler, like so one company services. On the other side is the commercial waste generators and those are coming from the businesses. And so commercially generated textile waste are textiles that are coming out of businesses. So yeah, in Los Angeles, we have some pilot projects that are primarily focused on commercially generated textiles because they have so many factories that includes factories and textile scraps. But if you look across the country, commercially generated textiles include what’s coming out of hotels, right? Your hospitality

linens that includes rags. uniforms and like I can’t even tell you how many companies, how much money they spend on uniforms. Let’s get some recycled content, let’s get some repair. I have this one uniform repair grant I’ve been soliciting and that keeps getting denied. So if anyone listening has funding, I’d love to work with a business and really see how much money is saved that the company saves if we start repairing uniform. instead of just recycling or land filling.

Amanda:

Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, I’m sure most of the listeners are, had not even considered that uniforms and bedding and all of these other, you know, tablecloths and napkins and whatnot from restaurants would be a source of a significant amount of textile waste. So it’s always important to underscore that. You know, a few years ago, I worked on a project with a company based in Portland that was upcycling all of the retired Delta uniforms.

Joanne Brasch:

Yeah.

Amanda:

flight attendants, the pilots, they were like they did a whole overhaul they had I believe Zach Posen designed their new uniforms and so just like thousands of pounds of uniforms showed up at their warehouse and they turned it into bags and travel accessories and other items and what struck me about these uniforms is the incredible quality of all of them. and how sad it would have been for them to have no future beyond that because they were just like the best wool fabrics. I had seen other amazing textiles and you know, that’s just one airline. I’m not saying that all the flight attendant uniforms are that nice, but those were really

Joanne Brasch:

Hahaha.

Amanda:

nice. Okay, so what about, this was another one that I thought was really interesting, industrial laundry and textile rental. Because for example, I know this isn’t exactly it, but I worked for a clothing rental company a few years ago, and I was shocked, just shocked by the amount of clothing waste that was being generated on a regular basis there. Everything was coming in, being cleaned, repaired, and sent back out. And that really wasn’t what was happening. And I thought, like, wow, I know, you know, I was thinking about, like, people who rent tuxedos or, I don’t know, rent linens for their wedding or, you know, all of these other elements of textile that might not be getting the long use that we would expect.

Joanne Brasch:

Absolutely. And tapping into my work at the hospital, I mean, people don’t always realize that, you know, hospitals, hotels, and dorms, you know, like a lot of those are renting those linens, and a lot of those are being washed at the same laundries.

Amanda:

Mm-hmm. Yeah, I mean that’s hospital linens. That’s when you get me excited. That’s a lot of linens, you know So like in what way are is CPSC working with these more like industrial laundries and textile rentals services to you know manage their waste

Joanne Brasch:

Well, actually, they were one of the, so there is a textile rental association in the United States, and they were one of the first groups to reach out and work with us on some of the legislation in California.

Amanda:

Awesome.

Joanne Brasch:

Because when I, when CPSC a few years ago made the initial proposal for a textile EPR bill or program, we pitched the idea to the California Statewide Recycling Commission. And at that time, we thought, you know, until we have a fully cooked model for a full EPR, let’s just pitch the idea of just an, you know, hospitality program. So that one, that scope was really focused on those hospitality linens, the commercially generated linens, the rentals. So the industry groups have already been alerted and aware of that proposal. And we’re really on board because one of the benefits that those laundries get are support with their repair costs. They get support with the recycling. They get support with the microfiber filtration. So there’s a lot of nexus between these stakeholders. Whereas they might have certain costs under the program, they usually see more benefits.

Amanda:

Awesome. Okay, well what about, this is a big one, we’ve already touched on this a little bit, thrift stores.

Joanne Brasch:

Yeah, the thrift stores, this is who I really wanted to help with our proposed bill because I feel like they get blamed a lot and they’ve really been burdened in our society as like the pre-sorters of all things usable but maybe it’s not usable and here in California, the thrift stores have been really active with some of the e-waste programs because they’ve been dumped on with e-waste, you know. And with CBSC, we actually sponsored and passed battery EPR legislation last year. So any of the listeners who, if you’re a producer or a brand who makes a product with batteries, you’re already looped into a program. But basically, we started to look at who, where are these waste products accumulating and where is it a burden? And so the thrift stores,

we’ve been engaged since day one in terms of, you know, they’ve been on our advisory committee, they’ve been part of our pilot projects. They’ve been really welcoming to share information that wasn’t previously available because a lot of the thrifts that we’ve worked with, they know they need help and they know some of the market shifts that are happening right now are deeper economic shifts. that without some of the support proposed in EPR programs, they might get stuck with just more waste. And so we don’t want them to be stuck with waste. We want them to be offering

Amanda:

Right.

Joanne Brasch:

services. We want them to be offering high quality reuse and secondhand sales and not be burdened with picking out the trash.

Amanda:

Yeah, you know, my daughter worked for about six months as a sorter for a thrift store in Pennsylvania. And I was shocked by what I heard about what was showing up there every day because it really was just like everything. You know, like it was basically like the thrift stores were our sorting trash in so many ways right now. And it is like a, it’s a huge burden in a lot of different ways. Okay. What about textile recyclers? Cause this is one that can be a little confusing. If you don’t know what they do, you, you think that they like pick up all the fabrics, they mash them up and it turns into new stuff, right? But it’s, it’s a lot more complicated than that. So how do the textile recycling companies play a part in this?

Joanne Brasch:

So a lot of the textile recyclers can also recycle carpet and some of the textiles that are coming out of mattresses. So we already have programs in California and some of the other states do as well for those programs. So they saw financial support to collect materials that have no value to become feedstock for their technologies or their recycling program. So One of my favorite examples is the Econiel recycled nylon, made of industrial recycled content. But what everyone needs to know is it’s carpet. And it’s carpet from California because we have our EBR program, because we gave value to this unwanted carpet, which is a great source of nylon. So that’s just one example. So for our pilot projects in California, We tapped into all of the recyclers who are already participating in programs. And we said, hey, if we pre-sort the textiles to your exact specifications, that exact 85% nylon or higher, if we pre-sort, can you take textiles? So we did test runs out of city of LA with quite a few of those recyclers. And after that pilot was really successful, they all just started showing up to us, you know? And they said, hey. We heard you have the ability to pre-sort. Can you send me all your cotton blends? Or, you know, so really,

Amanda:

That’s amazing!

Joanne Brasch:

yeah, so really our role at CPSC isn’t like, we don’t run these programs. We empower the champions, we redirect the funding so that it actually is sustainable. So when you talk about the recyclers, we have more textile recyclers who’ve endorsed SB 707 then we do have brands. And what a lot of the brands don’t realize is the recyclers who are supplying their eco fibers are endorsing the bill, they should probably endorse it too. Ha ha

Amanda:

Yeah. I mean, they’re so intrinsically connected. I think probably a lot of consumers would be surprised to hear that. But it really is part of the same cycle. And they should look out for one another. OK. What about waste haulers? Like literally the people who are like, OK, we’re taking all the trash. How are they a part of textile stewardship?

Joanne Brasch:

Yeah, so here in California and a lot of the waste haulers around the country, once they get into contract with a city or a county, they’re the ones not only driving around picking up the materials, a lot of times they’re the ones kind of doing some of the education. They’re also the ones who

are responsible for diversion sometimes. So if you look at the City of LA, you know, the City of LA is held to statewide diversion goals. goals, but the city itself doesn’t touch the materials. It’s all contracted to their haulers. So the haulers are the ones, you know, working with the generators, doing the education. And so we work with the haulers in a couple different ways. In our pilot project, phase two in the city of Los Angeles, we’re working with the haulers to map out textile routes. so that they can take a special truck so then again, it doesn’t mix with the dirty stuff. You can drive to all the top textile generators on a designated day, fill the truck, drop

it off at the designated sorting facility. And they’re really key because they’re the ones who are contracted to touch the material. And in certain jurisdictions, they can drop it off only at certain locations. So they can’t just like drop it off anyway. And what we’re finding is a lot of these cities and waste haulers, they love the turnkey partnerships. Like they wanna partner with a thrift. They wanna partner with, you know, some sort of charity or something. It makes it easier to work with the people who know textiles. It’s a lot easier. So the waste haulers have really gotten on board with the legislation. One, anything that impacts their contracts they’re interested in. But two, their hands are tied with textiles. They can’t mix with their current machinery and their current trucking systems. So this is their plea for help. Like industry, get to the table. We can’t mix it. We can’t put the textiles in our garbage trucks. Ha ha ha.

Amanda:

Because basically, like, if the textiles are in the garbage truck, aren’t they kind of not usable after that?

Joanne Brasch:

Absolutely.

Amanda:

Or they become maybe a little bit of a… right? OK, like, it sounds gross, but I was just confirming

Joanne Brasch:

The jurisdictions who are doing pickups are usually, I’m not even exaggerating, renting box trucks from like a U-Haul because they’re cleaner.

Amanda:

Oh my gosh, yeah, yeah. And I’m sure those fill up really, really fast.

Joanne Brasch:

It’s cheaper to rent a truck than it is to clean one.

Amanda:

I mean, imagine cleaning a truck, a garbage truck. I’m not signing up for it. You need, it’s a lot. Okay, so what I loved is that you also said that sustainable designers, menders, and tailors are part of all of this too. How do they play into it?

Joanne Brasch:

One of my favorite precedents in SB 707 that we’re proposing that’s different than the other bills around the world is this major repair component. Here in California, we wouldn’t be as successful with our waste bill if we didn’t have the protections we have for our garment workers. So here in California, we have a garment workers license program. And a few years ago, there was a bill SB 602. to that past that protects the garment workers to ensure that they’re getting fair wages and access to lost wages. So that’s one of the great, again, another example of another agency that helps lift up a successful program.

Amanda:

Mm-hmm.

Joanne Brasch:

So in our pilot with the San Francisco, we use licensed garment workers for our upcycling and our repair. And ultimately, a successful permanent program will spend more money on repair and upcycling than they will for recycling. Because that’s what costs the most. But that’s what we know is ultimately the greatest impact on GHG, greatest impact on waste reduction, greatest job generator, like hands down the most important part of the program. and the one I’m most proud of and nobody has opposed, that component.

Amanda:

I mean, I love that. That’s my favorite part.

Joanne Brasch:

And I will say, I will never have a successful waste program without a designer on contract because you need the designers to know the fabrics, to know the uses. Otherwise, from a waste perspective, it’s just the material.

Amanda:

Yeah, that’s so true. That’s a really good point. And so a lot of the work you’re doing, it really involves state policy, right? So how does local government play into this?

Joanne Brasch:

So CPSC’s primary funding source is local government. So it’s cities and counties who are just fed up and we work on hard to manage products.

So our funders tell us, hey, this product is costing us too much money. It’s too much of a hassle. Please. So it’s not that we only work on state legislation. That’s just our main component, what we’re committed to. We also do local ordinances. So with the city of Los Angeles, there is a five-year goal to pass a local EPR program in the city of Los Angeles. And if you look at the success of the medicine EPR program, the reason CPSC won against big pharma is because the local government came to bat and they went to the Supreme Court against pharma industry. And it was because the local government passed ordinances that said, we have the right to protect our local communities. We have the right to pass laws that we feel our public benefit. And what the Supreme Court found was that EPR is in the benefit of the public. And so it’s actually the local government who led the way nationally. Specifically. Alameda County, so another big props to Alameda County and their city council and their lawyers from 2018. Without their leadership, we wouldn’t have the precedent we need to take on bigger and more powerful industries. And you wouldn’t believe it, but I do think textiles and clothing are more powerful and more complicated than pharma.

Amanda:

Imagine. So I have a question about the medicine EPR, because this is fascinating to me. So was it like before consumers would just like throw medicine away, which sounds dangerous, or was there some other larger issue? And how did EPR change that?

Joanne Brasch:

Yeah, so actually before we could do the EPR on medicine, we actually had to work with federal, state, and local government to get medicine off the flush list.

Amanda:

Oh, you mean like in the toilet?

Joanne Brasch:

Or in the trash, or there was literally, it was one of those products that had no safe, like safe and convenient consumer program. So, you know, that partially has a lot to do with the addictions and. coupled with the overprescriptions and no disposal systems, that was part of the

motivation for our local governments at Alameda County, San Francisco County, San Mateo County. We ended up getting 13 counties to take on Big Pharma. And now, you know, in 2023, so it took a good… Six years, we’re now seeing bins at all the pharmacies in California. So at our Walgreens, at our RiteAids, and they’re free. You just throw your meds in there and they’re disposed of safely. And that’s because of the EPR program. And another good example of why the public doesn’t always see the backside and the big fight that had to go on in order for those bins to just magically show up at their local pharmacy.

Amanda:

I mean, that’s amazing because yes, most people have no idea that it would be so hard to create something that safe.

Joanne Brasch:

Canada has it, Mexico has it, Europe has it. They didn’t have to go through the legislative fight that we did to get it.

Amanda:

Wow. So, obviously the medicine EPR has been successful. Are there any others that you’re just super proud of or that you think are going to be big game changers?

Joanne Brasch:

Well, I am really proud of the battery EPR bill that we passed that’s in the regulatory phase. But if you look at the ones that are already implemented, I am proud of the mattress bill. Even though it’s not true EPR, it’s a consumer fee. So we consider that like product stewardship. They had a lot of textiles going to the landfill because it’s the outer shell, it’s some of the filling.

And what we saw year after year is they continued to invest in research and they continue to invest in market development for textiles. And so ultimately when we decided to do legislation on textile EPR, it was to support the established programs which are consumer funded. Because why should the California public pay to solve textile recycling’s biggest problems? So yeah, I would say the mattress program, and in terms of textiles has been really impressive. If you go to the Mattress Recycling Council’s website and you look up some of their textiles

research, you can see some of the great uses they’ve done with their EPR money.

Amanda:

I mean, I love that because when I was living in LA, there were abandoned mattresses everywhere because people just don’t know what to do with them. Constantly abandoned mattresses on my street that hung out there until I’m sure, I guess the city came and took them away. But mattresses are really big, you know? So this is a big win. What are the greatest obstacles that you faced, especially when it comes to, you know, getting more… policy around EPR and more people involved for textiles.

Joanne Brasch:

I mean, the biggest challenge I have found is getting stakeholders and policymakers to understand some of the nuances of the programs and how the textile program really differs from some of the other programs. But that really ties back to what we talked about earlier in education. So CPSC has been leading on education at the Capitol for over a decade. We take legislators on trips around the country to see how EPR works in other states and how it works in Canada. We do a lot of tours to see textile sorting, textile fiber identification devices. So it’s not just about, you know, it’s about educating through multiple channels and the people making

the decisions. need to meet the people who are impacted by those decisions.

Amanda:

Agreed agreed So, you know every time I talk about EPR even in the slightest way on Instagram or here on the podcast So many people reach out like how can I get involved? How can I be part of a push for EPR? What do you suggest to listeners? How can they be more involved?

Joanne Brasch:

Anyone can get involved in the California bill. We have a coalition letter that is open to individuals, it’s open to organizations, but the most powerful… advocacy that individuals can do is within their own organizations and within their own networks to share an understanding of how these complicated waste programs are actually really simple. Really like, hey, it’s not just about this fee that the brands are going to have to pay. This is about getting a vehicle of funding. from the problem to the solution. So, signing onto California’s bill, getting people and brands you work with to sign onto the California bill, we have some of the most amazing brands and retailers who’ve signed on, and different stakeholders. But I know that’s not just California. So, you know, I’m sure we can share how they can get ahold of CPSC and get onto that letter and get into that legislative… role here in California, but in other states, if they’re in New York, tocontact Kavanaugh’s office. That legislator in New York is the author of the New York EPR bill. They need to hear that it’s an important issue. Another way that they can really get involved, especially if your listeners are in states that don’t have bills that are already introduced, is to actually… start to see which associations are getting mobilized in your local community. Is there a local fiber shed chapter? Is there, you know, a council of goodwills or any type of thrift store associations? I’m also the board chair of the textile chemists association in the California chapter. And I think getting involved in boards and getting involved in different places that these conversations are happening are really easy. And speaking up, you know, I can only be so many places so many times. And so I love going on to recorded places like this podcast because people can listen at their own leisure and they can learn when it’s convenient

for them. And so when it’s convenient for your listeners to educate and to teach. I hope they take that opportunity to do so.

Amanda:

Agreed. So do you have, to wrap things up here, do you have any advice for ways that individuals can practice their own textile stewardship?

Joanne Brasch:

I think first and foremost, just repairing and using what you have, doing clothing swaps at your house are, you know, it’s really simple and really easy. But I think kind of aligned with my work and my work’s mission, I think getting involved in your local communities, like zero waste groups, getting involved in, you know, your local mending workshops, and actually showing up. I couldn’t even tell you how many times we have seen resources go into planning these events, and people don’t actually show up. It’s a good idea, you know, but actually showing up. And again, not just learning, but sharing what you’ve learned as well.

Amanda:

Right, right, yeah, totally agree. I think that’s how this starts, because for all of us who are geeking out about EPR, we’re kind of like a minority at this point, because most people have never even heard those three letters used in a row like that. So it all starts with that. What is it? Well, thank you so much, Joanne. I had such a nice time. What a great way to end my week.

Thank you again to Joanne for taking the time to talk to us. I’m going to share all kinds of resources and info related to her work in the show notes, so please check it out!

Ordinarily I like to end this all with a pep talk to get you all fired up…but I kinda already did that in the beginning of the episode. And it’s 104 degrees again today, so I know Dustin wants me to stop recording so we can turn on the AC. So I’ll just end it all with this:

Thank you for being a part of this with me. Some of you have been listening for the entire past three years, others came in just recently. And I’m so grateful for your time and my chance to have this platform. Clotheshorse has changed me in a good way, gave me purpose when I felt I had none, gave me the reason to wake up and do another day when I wasn’t sure I had it in me…and most importantly, it opened my life up to include all of you. And these are not gift horses that I look in the mouth! Thank you for this opportunity.

 

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Clotheshorse is brought to you with support from the following sustainable small businesses:

Thumbprint is Detroit’s only fair trade marketplace, located in the historic Eastern Market.  Our small business specializes in products handmade by empowered women in South Africa making a living wage creating things they love like hand painted candles and ceramics! We also carry a curated assortment of  sustainable/natural locally made goods. Thumbprint is a great gift destination for both the special people in your life and for yourself! Browse our online store at thumbprintdetroit.com and find us on instagram @thumbprintdetroit.

Picnicwear:  a slow fashion brand, ethically made by hand from vintage and deadstock materials – most notably, vintage towels! Founder, Dani, has worked in the industry as a fashion designer for over 10 years, but started Picnicwear in response to her dissatisfaction with the industry’s shortcomings. Picnicwear recently moved to rural North Carolina where all their clothing and accessories are now designed and cut, but the majority of their sewing is done by skilled garment workers in NYC. Their customers take comfort in knowing that all their sewists are paid well above NYC minimum wage. Picnicwear offers minimal waste and maximum authenticity: Future Vintage over future garbage.

Shift Clothing, out of beautiful Astoria, Oregon, with a focus on natural fibers, simple hardworking designs, and putting fat people first.  Discover more at shiftwheeler.com

High Energy Vintage is a fun and funky vintage shop located in Somerville, MA, just a few minutes away from downtown Boston. They offer a highly curated selection of bright and colorful clothing and accessories from the 1940s-1990s for people of all genders. Husband-and-wife duo Wiley & Jessamy handpick each piece for quality and style, with a focus on pieces that transcend trends and will find a home in your closet for many years to come! In addition to clothing, the shop also features a large selection of vintage vinyl and old school video games. Find them on instagram @ highenergyvintage, online at highenergyvintage.com, and at markets in and around Boston.

St. Evens is an NYC-based vintage shop that is dedicated to bringing you those special pieces you’ll reach for again and again. More than just a store, St. Evens is dedicated to sharing the stories and history behind the garments. 10% of all sales are donated to a different charitable organization each month.  New vintage is released every Thursday at wearStEvens.com, with previews of new pieces and more brought to you on Instagram at @wear_st.evens.

Deco Denim is a startup based out of San Francisco, selling clothing and accessories that are sustainable, gender fluid, size inclusive and high quality–made to last for years to come. Deco Denim is trying to change the way you think about buying clothes. Founder Sarah Mattes wants to empower people to ask important questions like, “Where was this made? Was this garment made ethically? Is this fabric made of plastic? Can this garment be upcycled and if not, can it be recycled?” Signup at decodenim.com to receive $20 off your first purchase. They promise not to spam you and send out no more than 3 emails a month, with 2 of them surrounding education or a personal note from the Founder. Find them on Instagram as @deco.denim.

The Pewter Thimble Is there a little bit of Italy in your soul? Are you an enthusiast of pre-loved decor and accessories? Bring vintage Italian style — and history — into your space with The Pewter Thimble (@thepewterthimble). We source useful and beautiful things, and mend them where needed. We also find gorgeous illustrations, and make them print-worthy. Tarot cards, tea towels and handpicked treasures, available to you from the comfort of your own home. Responsibly sourced from across Rome, lovingly renewed by fairly paid artists and artisans, with something for every budget. Discover more at thepewterthimble.com

Blank Cass, or Blanket Coats by Cass, is focused on restoring, renewing, and reviving the history held within vintage and heirloom textiles. By embodying and transferring the love, craft, and energy that is original to each vintage textile into a new garment, I hope we can reteach ourselves to care for and mend what we have and make it last. Blank Cass lives on Instagram @blank_cass and a website will be launched soon at blankcass.com.

Gabriela Antonas is a visual artist, an upcycler, and a fashion designer, but Gabriela Antonas is also a feminist micro business with radical ideals. She’s the one woman band, trying to help you understand, why slow fashion is what the earth needs. If you find your self in New Orleans, LA, you may buy her ready-to-wear upcycled garments in person at the store “Slow Down” (2855 Magazine St). Slow Down Nola only sells vintage and slow fashion from local designers. Gabriela’s garments are guaranteed to be in stock in person, but they also have a website so you may support this women owned and run business from wherever you are! If you are interested in Gabriela making a one of a kind garment for you DM her on Instagram at @slowfashiongabriela to book a consultation.

Vagabond Vintage DTLV is a vintage clothing, accessories & decor reselling business based in Downtown Las Vegas. Not only do we sell in Las Vegas, but we are also located throughout resale markets in San Francisco as well as at a curated boutique called Lux and Ivy located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Jessica, the founder & owner of Vagabond Vintage DTLV, recently opened the first IRL location located in the Arts District of Downtown Las Vegas on August 5th. The shop has a strong emphasis on 60s & 70s garments, single stitch tee shirts & dreamy loungewear. Follow them on instagram, @vagabondvintage.dtlv and keep an eye out for their website coming fall of 2022.

Country Feedback is a mom & pop record shop in Tarboro, North Carolina. They specialize in used rock, country, and soul and offer affordable vintage clothing and housewares. Do you have used records you want to sell? Country Feedback wants to buy them! Find us on Instagram @countryfeedbackvintageandvinyl or head downeast and visit our brick and mortar. All are welcome at this inclusive and family-friendly record shop in the country!

Located in Whistler, Canada, Velvet Underground is a “velvet jungle” full of vintage and second-hand clothes, plants, a vegan cafe and lots of rad products from other small sustainable businesses. Our mission is to create a brand and community dedicated to promoting self-expression, as well as educating and inspiring a more sustainable and conscious lifestyle both for the people and the planet. Find us on Instagram @shop_velvetunderground or online at www.shopvelvetunderground.com

Selina Sanders, a social impact brand that specializes in up-cycled clothing, using only reclaimed, vintage or thrifted materials: from tea towels, linens, blankets and quilts.  Sustainably crafted in Los Angeles, each piece is designed to last in one’s closet for generations to come.  Maximum Style; Minimal Carbon Footprint.

Salt Hats:  purveyors of truly sustainable hats. Hand blocked, sewn and embellished in Detroit, Michigan.

Republica Unicornia Yarns: Hand-Dyed Yarn and notions for the color-obsessed. Made with love and some swearing in fabulous Atlanta, Georgia by Head Yarn Wench Kathleen. Get ready for rainbows with a side of Giving A Damn! Republica Unicornia is all about making your own magic using small-batch, responsibly sourced, hand-dyed yarns and thoughtfully made notions. Slow fashion all the way down and discover the joy of creating your very own beautiful hand knit, crocheted, or woven pieces. Find us on Instagram @republica_unicornia_yarns and at www.republicaunicornia.com.

Cute Little Ruin is an online shop dedicated to providing quality vintage and secondhand clothing, vinyl, and home items in a wide range of styles and price points.  If it’s ethical and legal, we try to find a new home for it!  Vintage style with progressive values.  Find us on Instagram at @CuteLittleRuin.