The Bra Recyclers, LLC, is a Phoenix-based for-profit social enterprise that has ignited a ‘Bravolution’ to decrease the number of bras entering our landfills while providing substantial social benefits to women and girls escaping domestic violence, human trafficking or surviving breast cancer.
The Bra Recyclers was founded in 2008 by Elaine Birks-Mitchell after she noticed two gaps within her community. First, there was a lack of bras for women who were transitioning out of homelessness, domestic violence and trafficking. Second, there were reusable textiles unnecessarily going into landfills. Textile recycling is critical in helping to save the environment, yet many people don’t think of the impact of the clothing that they throw away. While 95% of worn or torn clothing can be recycled, typically only 15% gets donated or recycled. With bras or other lingerie, the percentages of items that could be recycled or donated are even lower.
That’s where The Bra Recyclers stepped in. Using a market-driven approach, they began to address the need for bras at local women’s shelters in Arizona. Today, they have expanded their outreach to over 100 shelters in 24 US states and four African nations. With the support of their Bra Recycling Ambassadors and community partners around the world, The Bra Recyclers has donated nearly 2 million gently used bras (4 million as of 2021!).
Ascension Place, for example, is a Minneapolis based women’s transitional housing program and a Bra Recycler community partner. They report that “one of the critical steps to permanent wellness is developing a healthy sense of confidence and self-esteem. As a woman, having a well-fitting bra is a little thing that makes a BIG difference in that area. The partnership with The Bra Recyclers allows us to tangibly increase the quality of life for the women we serve and help them to put their best foot forward.”
Project Harambee is another community partner that supports young women at St. Aloysius Gonzaga High School in Kibera, Africa: “Every one of the girls has lost one or both parents to HIV and endures very difficult circumstances. The school remains open on Saturday because they’re served a mid-day meal, and for many, it’s their only meal of the day. So, you can imagine how appreciative they are of the gift of a new bra.”
As a social enterprise, The Bra Recyclers’ core mission and vision is to address the impact of social injustices like human trafficking, domestic violence and women’s inequality around the world. Giving a woman a bra and the support needed to move toward self-sufficiency helps reshape her life and the lives of those around her while reducing the number of reusable textiles that unnecessarily go into landfills.
To learn more about The Bra Recyclers, LLC, check out their member directory profile.