Local governments in Arizona, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington State have all begun offering curbside pickup of textiles. Special bags and bins are provided for residents to put their clothes in. They can put them right on the curb next to their papers and cans. Nearly 250 apartment buildings in New York City now feature clothing collection bins.
Governments aren’t the only ones collecting. Businesses have gotten in on the action as well. Companies such as The North Face, H&M, and other retailers have starting providing in-store bins to customers. In exchange for donating clothing, the customer is presented with a store voucher. There is also a rise in the placement of collection bins in parking lots, gas stations, and other locations.
There is a growing push to reduce landfill costs and clothes are becoming a more targeted item. Regardless of their condition or style, companies are collecting them. The clothing is then either sold or reprocessed into wiping rags or other products. The businesses and nonprofits partner with cities and local charities and offer them part of the profit.
A pilot program for curbside pickup was started in Queen Creek, Arizona in September. In just four months, the city had collected 27,000 pounds of material. This garnered nearly $3,000 for the city and its Boys and Girls Club. The city partnered with United Fibers, a company that creates insulation out of used textiles.
More partnerships are occurring across the country. The Salvation Army partnered with Brockton and Worcester, Massachusetts, to offer curbside pickup. In Newtown, Pennsylvania, and neighboring communities, Community Recycling started picking up donated clothing. The for-profit organization sells clothing for reuse.
According to Jackie King, executive director of Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association, “Nearly half of donated clothes are sold for reuse, mostly overseas, where demand and prices have risen.” Michael Meyer of Goodwill says that prices have increased per-pound internationally from around three cents to approximately 20 cents. Goodwill sells most of the clothing it collects within the United States, but a small portion is sold abroad.
King notes that 70 pounds of clothing, linens, and textiles are thrown away each year by the average American. Whereas 72 percent of newspapers and 50 percent of soda cans are recycled, only about 15 of textiles are. Planet Aid’s Kelly Jamieson says that clothing clogs up landfills because it doesn’t decompose. Through the placement of collection bins, more organizations are giving residents an alternative place to throw their unwanted clothing.
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