Dr. Nathan Belkin, then with Fashion Seal Uniforms, founded ARTA to help the textile services industry compete with the disposable nonwovens industry.
When disposable, single-use products first appeared, they were not considered a threat to the textile services industry based on 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 and consumer perceptions of disposable 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 on the manufacture and performance of medical devices.
It was evident that the reusable textiles industry needed to act against INDA, and do so in a timely manner. In 1982, Belkin 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 by the Food and Drug Administration. This reclassification of nonwoven medical devices from Class II to Class I would have required reusable products to meet the 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 North American Free Trade Agreement eliminated this legislation entirely.
Donald Pedder became the first laundry operator to join ARTA in 1992. Pedder, who later served as president, from 2004 to 2008, expanded the number of laundry operator members and today they make up 50% of ARTA’s membership.
Since ARTA’s inception, it has conducted and participated in education seminars on reusables. In 2006, then president Donald Pedder launched ARTA’s biennial Education Conference and also developed its sponsorship program.
ARTA held its first Green Conference focusing on the issue of sustainability and research, trends and issues that affect the textile services industry’s ability to market the benefits of reusable textiles.
ARTA commissioned Environmental Clarity to perform its first life cycle analysis (LCA) comparing the environmental impact of reusable versus disposable cleanroom coveralls. Since then, we’ve conducted LCAs on isolation gowns, surgical gowns and incontinence pads. The cleanroom coveralls, isolation gown and surgical gown research have all been published and peer reviewed. This research, all conducted by Environmental Clarity, provides incontrovertible evidence that reusable medical textiles offer dramatic improvements in environmental benefits versus their single-use counterparts.
ARTA presented the first Nate Belkin Award for Excellence in Marketing Reusable Textiles to the person and/or organization that most effectively realizes ARTA’s mission to create greater awareness and appreciation for reusable textiles. The award is presented biennially at The Clean Show during ARTA’s Member Breakfast .
ARTA’s first peer-reviewed economic and environmental impact study on cleanroom garments was published in the PDA Journal in September 2021. The study, conducted for ARTA’s Cleanroom Committee by Environmental Clarity, documents that reusables are 58% less expensive than their disposable counterparts, which results in $120 million savings in annual garment purchases and laundry costs industrywide annually.