As the trade association of for-profit companies that process billions of pounds of recycled clothing and textiles annually, SMART is striving increase the public’s awareness of how their unwanted clothing and household textiles are processed when being placed in clothing collection bins across the nation.
A key element to its industry outreach effort is the Code of Conduct drafted by SMART for member companies operating clothing and textile recycling collection bins. The Code of Conduct requires companies to be transparent about their business model by clearly informing the public they are a for-profit company. Contact information for the clothing collection bin operator is also required, along with information regarding any charitable partners if applicable.
The Code of Conduct also requires the collection bin operators to comply with all local zoning laws and to have permission before placing a clothing collection bin. All collection bins must also be routinely maintained and the company must respond to all complaint calls in a timely manner.
“Our member companies’ work closely with a variety of reputable charities that collect clothing to support local community programs,” says Lou Buty, President of SMART. “As the Association of for-profit clothing and textile recyclers, we are the engine that drives the economics of the clothing and textile recycling industry, whether it is by partnering with a charity to operate a recycling collection bin program or by purchasing the goods the charity can’t sell in its retail outlets. It is imperative that each member of our industry remain transparent in all their business practices.”
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the average American discards 70 pounds of clothing annually. This translates to a staggering 21 billion pounds of clothing and textiles that are thrown away in the United States alone. The EPA also states only 15% of unwanted clothing and household textiles are currently being recycled, with the remainder going into landfills and incinerators.
EPA Municipal Waste Study 2010
“We encourage the public to remember SMART’s message to ‘Donate, Recycle, Don’t Throw Away.’ Everyone using a clothing collection bin should be fully informed as to where their clothing is going,” says Jackie King, Executive Director of SMART. “If the labeling is unclear or confusing they should find a clothing collection bin which meets the standards of SMART’s Code of Conduct for messaging and transparency.”
SMART companies are able to process 95% of all clothing and household textiles they handle to keep them out of the waste stream. The materials may be reused as articles of clothing, they may be cut into wiping cloths, or they may be processed down to their basic fibers that are then used to manufacture new products. King says as long as the items have been laundered and are dry, even if they are ripped or stained, they should be recycled, not placed in the trash.
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