Thursday, May 3, 2012

Keep Costumes out of Landfills

Contributed by Joanne Haas is the Associate Director at the TDF Costume Collection

According to, “The average New Yorker tosses 46 pounds of clothing and textiles in the trash each year, totaling 6% of our entire residential waste stream.” Imagine how much waste we create as costume designers?  Our art only lives for a very finite period of time; A show opens, and then all too soon after comes strike.  What happens to the clothing after the show closes? 

The U.S. EPA estimates that textile waste is 5% of all landfill space.  Did you know that synthetic fibers do not decompose?  Natural fiber garments decompose but create methane, which contributes to global warming. 

What to do?  Try to reduce, recycle, and reuse as much as possible.  How do we do this? 
  • Rent and donate costumes from the TDF Costume Collection.  If you don’t know, the TDF Costume Collection is service organization of the Theatre Development Fund.  The Collection is a self-service warehouse in Astoria, Queens of approximately 75,000 pieces that have all been donated from places such as Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, The Metropolitan Opera, Papermill Playhouse, Universities/Colleges, and individuals.  These costumes are available for rental priced at a sliding scale for non-profit organizations (rates start at $45.00 for non-profit organizations).  By using rented costumes, you are saving on raw resources such as fabric and electricity.  With a creative eye, you can put together and transform the pieces available to create the looks needed for your show.
For more information on the TDF Costume Collection, visit their website at 
A plain brown 18th Century Frock transformed by sewing on new trims.  

  • Buy and/or donate to thrift stores like Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, Planet Aid and Housing Works just to name a few.  Not only are you saving landfill space, money, but you are also helping these organizations with fundraising for their programs.
  • sponsors textile recycling at several greenmarkets throughout the NYC area.   For a complete listing, visit their website.
  • While the Materials for the Arts will not accept clothing, they do accept large pieces of raw materials such as fabric.  So, instead of throwing out your extra bolts we all have lying around, donate them so they can be used by other arts organizations.  
  • For other ideas, visit:
Every small effort helps!  Some of the resources above will not only help our planet, but will help you by saving time and money, something every small innovative theatre artist can believe in. 


Joanne Haas is the Associate Director at the TDF Costume Collection, a service organization of the Theatre Development Fund.  Before joining the TDF staff, Joanne was a freelance costume designer for theatre and film.  A member of USA Local 829, Joanne has served as costume designer for over 200 productions, working both in New York City and throughout the Northeast.

1 comment:

  1. This is an issue that is always on my mind. Those who know me know that I use every last scrap that I can in my costumes, but the bits that I cannot do go to the green market booth. If I have any questions about something, I email them first and they let me know if I can bring it. They are always quick to respond, and it feels so good to drop the stuff off. Trying to recycle also inspires my designs a LOT! Thank you for highlighting this issue!