smartthread blog

Annual Convention: Lessons Learned from Adam Minter

Since 1932, the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART) has served as the premiere source of networking, education and advocacy for promoting the interdependence of the for-profile textile reuse and recycling industry. While COVID-19 has affected the way we interact and share information with our members, that did not stop us from having an extremely successful Annual Convention (virtually) in 2021!

Over the next few weeks, we look forward to sharing with you the “lessons learned” from our Convention’s speakers – all of whom are experts in their field. First up, we were delighted to hear from Adam Minter, a Bloomberg Opinion Columnist and author of Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade as well as Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale – both critically-acclaimed works that offer readers an inside look at the world of reuse and recycling.

With passion, a little bit of humor, and a number of enlightening Star Wars references, Adam’s presentation, “Secondhand Travels: A Journey into a New World of Re-Use and Repair” was incredibly informative for our Convention participants and left them wanting more – which Adam was happy to give them through a 20 minute Q&A session following his presentation!

Looking back on the session, here are our lessons learned from Mr. Minter as we journeyed into the concept of reuse and repair:

  1. Much of Adam’s presentation discussed how a variety of used goods (including metal, copper, stainless steel, paper, televisions, cell phones, etc.) are often exported to countries outside of North America. One thing you may not realize is that when this trade happens, the materials often do not end up being burned or melted down to make them go away. Rather, there are many sophisticated overseas operations that focus on the reuse of materials! For instance, old desktop computers that are past their prime when it comes to Western use, oftentimes find new homes in developing countries, where the technology still holds incredible value. Purchased at a fraction of their original cost, these desktop computers have proven very useful when sold to families, hospitals, businesses, banks, etc. because it helps reduce what’s referred to as the “digital divide.”
  2. When it comes to textiles (clothing, shoes, handbags, etc.), more and more companies are turning their attention toward environmentally-focused business practices. For instance, companies like Patagonia have recently started “buy back” programs for their clothing, where items can be resold to the company. From there, they are then re-sold to consumers. You might be thinking… “who would want someone’s old t-shirt or pair of pants?” Quite simply, that is answered by looking at how more and more consumers (especially females) are comfortable with shopping secondhand. Essentially, when these goods are re-worn by someone else, it reduces the environmental strain that is a result of creating entirely new garments. Need more evidence? Take a look at how wildly popular (and successful) companies like thredUp and Savers have been in recent years!

While there is plenty more to share regarding Adam’s presentation, consider this blog a teaser of the wealth of knowledge he has to share. We encourage you to follow him on Twitter, or order a copy of one of his books. In the meantime, remember: when it comes to used textiles, DONATE, RECYCLE, DON’T THROW AWAY! Not sure why? Review SMART’s frequently asked questions page.