The Difference that Mannequin Recycling Makes

Mannequin Madness has been an advocate for retailers and museums to recycle their unwanted mannequins since 2001.

Initially only a handful of retailers were interested in our mannequin recycling services but now we have worked with almost every major retailer in the U.S. For a list of clients who have used our services click here.

We divert an average of 1 million pounds of mannequins from going into landfills every year. 

Here are the 7 most common questions about why our mannequin recycling matters.

1 Why is mannequin recycling necessary?

Mannequins, dress forms, and other mannequin body parts such as legs, heads, hands, torsos etc are made out materials such as fiberglass, metal, glass, plastic, styrofoam.

These are materials that do not biodegrade so they do not belong in landfills.

“The apparel industry is the second-largest polluter in the world, second only to the oil industry,” retailer Eileen Fisher said in an article about the fashion industry and its responsbiity for its pollution.

While most of the pollution is generated in the pre-production stage of manufacturing clothing, there is a significant amount of environmental waste generated at the store level. This is problem that Mannequin Madness addresses.

This video by Circa news, which included an interview with me, illustrates what happens to inventory when a retail store closes. It is not pretty.

2 How much do your recycling services cost?

Our mannequin recycling services are FREE. So not only do we make the planet more green but we put more “green” in the pockets of retailers.

We eliminate the cost they would have to pay on waste disposal fees on a dumpster full of bulky mannequins.

3 What cities is mannequin recycling available?

Mannequin Madness is located in Oakland, Ca but we created an affiliate relationship with used mannequin vendors throughout the U.S.

These affiliates assist when there are mannequins that need recycling in other cities. This is how we can facilitate the recycling of mannequins on a national, versus a local level especially when the quantities of mannequins is relatively small.

However when American Apparel went bankrupt we absorbed the cost for three 56 foot long trucks to transport their mannequins from Los Angeles to Oakland. We received so much inventory we had to move to a larger warehouse.

The photo below is from that haul. Some of the mannequins were brand new, in the original packing.

4 Why are stores throwing away their mannequins?

The average lifespan of a mannequin at a retail store is seven years. Mannequin styles change just like clothing styles change. And retailers have to stay on top of the current trends in fashion. This is how a mannequin that is still in good condition, can end up in the dumpster. It is out of style. 

The lifespan of a mannequin can be even shorter if a retailer goes out of business.

Or if the mannequin gets broken by a customer or employee. Shipping costs to send the mannequin to the few mannequin repair companies still around, are expensive. So rather than fix the mannequin the retailer will throw it away.

Sometimes a new management team comes in and wants to completely change the visual displays that the previous team installed.

5 What do you do with the used mannequins ?

Technically we repurpose (rather than recycle) mannequins. We extend their life cycle by reselling them.

We believe in the circular economy which is the contemporary way of saying “find a new use for an old thing in its existing form.”

The used mannequins are sold at a deeply discounted price from the original cost. This allows small retailers and museums to stretch their visual merchandising budget.

Even broken mannequins get purchased for a variety of DIY projects which you can see on our Facebook group: Crafty Fun with Mannequins.

Side note: My mom grew up on a farm in a rural part of Tennessee and recycling was just the natural way of doing things. Partly out of necessity and partly because when your livelihood is connected with the land you think about the environment in a different way. She instilled this value in me, which is why I have been passionate about recycling mannequins long before it was the popular thing to do.

6 So mannequins are not really recyclable?

There are companies that recycle mannequins by stripping them of all the fittings and materials that can be processed. The mannequin is then put in a grinder. (Note this only works for mannequins not dress forms.)

This process, which is NOT cheap, requires mass transportation to the plants, where they are granulated and used for fuel and in cement. Anything that is ground up and put into cement we question the environmental impact of burning such materials, due to their toxic fumes when incinerating. 

7 Do you ever have mannequins that you can’t use?

If mannequins are damaged or missing parts they are resold for Halloween Projects or Burning Man displays.

We have a zero waste policy for the mannequins we acquire. In 2003 we received a special achievement award from the Environmental Protection Agency for our mannequin recycling initiatives.

Green is the New Black

Recycling/repurposing mannequins make the planet a little greener and cleaner.

It saves both the company discarding the mannequins and the company purchasing the mannequins money - which is another way of being "greener" .

Our advocacy has resulted in more retailers using our services instead of waste management companies.

We want to add your company to our list of clients. If you want more information about our services please complete the form below.

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