This summer, JetBlue introduced new uniforms across the airline for the first time in its 14 year history. This included collecting old uniforms from over sixty cities and approximately eight pieces of clothing per uniformed crewmember. Rather than simply throwing away the collected fabric, JetBlue decided to give new life to the more than 37,000 pounds of material by donating it to charities and people in need. As part of JetBlue's uniform recycling program, donated clothing items can now be worn again.
Donated items were directed to eight donation centers and regulated uniform items that required shredding were sent to special facilities in Arizona or Massachusetts to be turned into more fabric for use in couch and pillow cushions. Of the 37,000 pounds of collected textile, approximately 11,538 pounds were donated as clothing and 25,462 pounds were shredded and donated as fabric, resulting in zero pounds going to landfill.
"At JetBlue, as soon as we decided to introduce new uniforms, we were thinking about how to reuse the old fabric, and filling local landfills was not an inspiring option. In a landfill, clothing releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. We wanted to avoid those unnecessary emissions just like we do with our fleet of modern aircraft and environmentally-efficient engines," said Sophia Mendelsohn, head of sustainability, JetBlue Airways. "Our core business is flying airplanes. When it comes to recycling fabric we knew we would need a partner such as Loomstate to show us how the extensive market of fabric recycling works."
Clothing that is frayed, worn, or stained can still be donated to organizations that recycle fabric. Although these items cannot necessarily be worn again, it can be transformed into something new. John Nagiecki, Planet Aid's director of communications said, "Fabric can have a second life. For example, old sweaters can be used as stuffing in baseballs and softballs, jeans can be converted into insulation for cars or houses, and the soles of shoes can be repurposed into paving materials. Reusing the materials in clothes means fewer new fibers have to be produced and it ultimately lessens the amount of pesticides and water used in the growing process."
Scott Mackinlay Hahn, Loomstate's cofounder and a Board member of the Council for Textile Recycling and the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovations Institute said, "JetBlue crewmembers have impressed us with their commitment to finding a second life for their clothing, from coast to coast across all the regions that we help serve. Along with them, our own customers want fashion that considers its impact from farmer to community, from its first use as clothing to its many reuses as clothing or other functions. Fashion and sustainability have come together. JetBlue's old uniforms have now entered the market to create more reusable material for the fashion industry. JetBlue's initiative for corporations across America has set a new standard and we are already looking at ways to improve upon that."
JetBlue crewmembers voluntarily brought in their old uniform pieces and the airline organized local pickups and deliveries to sorting centers. At these centers, pilot shirts were sent for shredding and recycling. Other pieces were packaged with donations of clothing and shoes from around the country and sent to communities in need in throughout the US, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Most of the clothing collected by Loomstate that was given to organizations such as Planet Aid will be given a second life. These items are bundled in Planet Aid warehouses and shipped to other countries where the demand for used clothing is high and profits will be used to fund charitable works.
"There are more than 11,000 uniformed crewmembers keeping our airline flying each day. This was a large consideration when deciding what to do with the thousands of pounds of uniforms we collected as we transitioned into the first new uniform update in our 14 year history," said Lisa Borromeo, director brand management, JetBlue Airways. "When considering our first uniform update, we were faced with the challenge of what to do with the thousands of pounds of old uniforms that we collected. With the help of partners like Loomstate, we did not send any fabric to landfills."
In 2010, Americans rid their closets of nearly 13.1 million tons of textiles. Yet, only 15 percent of that clothing was recycled or donated. In one year, more than 11 million tons of textiles were dumped in landfills within the United States alone. Decomposing clothing releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas and a significant contributor to climate change. There are also dyes and chemicals in clothing and shoes that can seep into the soil, contaminating water used to bathe and drink as well as grow food.