All too soon, the crisp weather of fall will be upon us. The kids will be returning to school. And before you know it, we’ll be celebrating the holidays ending with a hoot and holler at New Year’s.
Lots of folks choose the fall as a good time to clean out their closets before the onset of a chilly winter. Old clothes are sorted, packed up, and often dropped off. While donating your clothes (and getting the tax write-off) is a great idea, some of those drop boxes may not be so legitimate—or charitable.
In late 2004, State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal sued the American Recycling company of East Northport, NY. They placed as many as 73 drop-boxes across the state, particularly in the Seymour and Waterbury areas, that advertised charities the clothing would be donated to.
Unfortunately, the company sold the clothing for profit and only 10% of their proceeds actually went to the charities listed on the drop boxes. This past June, a judge ruled in Blumenthal’s favor and the drop boxes are no longer allowed in the state.
You want to do the right thing by recycling, but not everyone’s heart is in the same place as yours.
Goodwill Industries International, Inc. has been taking your old clothing and reusing it for decades. “We’re the original recyclers,” said Dorothy Viets, the Director of Community Relations. “We’re keeping the materials out of the landfills, that’s for sure.”
Viets said the company resells the clothing that is dropped off using the profits for their job program. Donate your old clothes and someone else gets a leg up. It’s a win-win.
Goodwill, as well as The Salvation Army, is always a good pick when donating your old clothing. But what about those not-so-perfect items in your closet like that ripped T-shirt from your last Van Halen concert? Don’t think that your threadbare items should go in the dustbin. Goodwill sells those items to “rag sorters,” or textile recyclers. The materials are sent to developing countries and the unusable garments are turned into industrial wiping and polishing cloths. Somebody’s rags become somebody else’s riches.
But what about vintage clothing and consignment shops? Isn’t that recycling, too?
“It’s certainly a great way to recycle,” said Lorry Polizzi, owner of Lorry Polizzi Vintage Clothing in North Branford.
Polizzi, who has been in the vintage business for about 15 years, said that consignment shops have gotten on the recycling bandwagon. But selling vintage clothing is more that just being green. “You just don’t see that kind of fabric and detail anymore,” she said. “It’s a way to preserve history rather than throwing it away.”
With her stock, she also sells to designers. “My stuff has got to be perfect. But some of the stock might be slightly damaged that I can sell to a designer. Sometimes they need a little inspiration and can make something else out of it.”
Retail brands like Patagonia offers recycling options for their own merchandise. Since 2005, customers can return their worn out fleece or cotton T-shirts in their Common Threads Garment Recycling Program.
In New York City, Wearable Collections, a non-profit organization that recycles unwanted clothing, teamed up with the Council on the Environment of New York City (CENYC). CENYC is a non-profit organization that supports environmental programs through greenmarkets, recycling, and community education. Wearable Collections have regular clothing drives and provide drop boxes on request across the city.
In a segment on the Sundance Channel, David Hurd, from the Office of Recycling Outreach and Education for CENYC, said that the sheer amount of discarded reusable material is staggering.
“Many New Yorkers would be surprised that over 380 million pounds a year of old clothing, bedding, linens are going into landfills and incinerators,” he said. “We try to get the simple message out that recycling is the everyday way that an individual can help fight global climate change.”
That 380 million pounds is in New York City alone. What about all the other cities and towns in this country? What about all the other towns and cities in other countries? That’s when those numbers become a little scary.
So whether it’s Goodwill, The Salvation Army, or any number of clothing recycling programs, it might be time to clean out your closet. So, if you’re looking to part with those jeans that used to fit you in junior high, now you know where to go. The environment may just depend on it.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.