The American Reusable Textile Association (ARTA) was formed in 1982 to help the textile services industry compete with the disposable nonwovens industry.
When disposable, single-use products first made an appearance, they were not considered a threat to the textile services industry for two main reasons - expense and environmental concerns. But the disposables industry organized an association, the International Nonwoven and Disposables Association (INDA), composed of some of the nation’s largest corporations, to change government’s and consumers’ perceptions of its products. In the healthcare field, INDA was successful in getting Medicare to reimburse healthcare providers on a cost-plus basis for single-use products and helped to push for the Medical Device Act, which imposed regulations for the manufacture and performance of medical devices.
It was evident that the reusable textile industry needed to act against INDA, and do so in a timely manner. In 1982, Dr. Nathan Belkin, then with Fashion Seal Uniforms, brought together a consortium of fiber producers, mills, fabricators, distributors, laundry equipment manufacturers, and detergent and chemical manufacturers to fight the disposables industry. Ninety companies formed ARTA, determined to have their voices heard.
ARTA’s first milestone was to stop the reclassification of a series of nonwoven medical devices under FDA regulations. This reclassification of nonwoven medical devices from Class II to Class I would have required reusable products to meet FDA’s performance standards and would have exempted the single-use disposable products from having to do the same. ARTA’s second notable achievement was the stalemating of legislation that would have reduced the tariff on disposable products manufactured in Mexico. Subsequently, the NAFTA agreement eliminated this legislation entirely.
Since ARTA’s inception, it has conducted and participated in educational seminars on reusables, met with government officials regarding legislative and regulatory issues, produced industry publications, participated in trade shows and helped to facilitate and promote an exchange of ideas beneficial to its industry.