[GRRN] more on textiles and charities

Brenda Platt (bplatt@ilsr.org)
Tue, 07 Dec 1999 11:44:31 +0000


good point about Goodwill, Salvation Army and other traditional thrifts;
i.e., that they have long collected and resold unsalable clothing to the
domestic rag market and to offshore markets and so you don't see them as
threatening. I did not mean to imply that I see them as threatening,
but do know that some for-profit textile recyclers believe they are
losing market share to the traditional thrifts and thus some of them
feel threatened.

In a study I did a few years ago on communities that added textiles to
their municipal drop-off or curbside programs, Weaving Textile Reuse
into Waste Reduction, I found that inclusion of textiles increased the
supply of textiles for everyone (the local charities and the textile
recycling companies).

St. Paul is in an interesting case. The city collects textiles and other
reusable household goods as part of its curbside recycling program and
has partnered with Goodwill Industries/Easter Seal Society to accept
the materials at the MRF. At first, other city charities were up in
arms about the program because they rightly feared their source of goods
would dry up. So the contract with Goodwill was set up to contain a
voucher system clause that allows other charitable organzations in town
to obtain materials from Goodwill fee of charge if the program
interferes with materials they would normally receive. At the time of
my research, no other charities had asked for a voucher. As it turned
out, the program has benefitted all parties. Residents benefit from the
ease of curbside collection, Goodwill benefits from additional donated
materials, and textile reuse markets benefit from additional
high-quality materials provided.

Interestingly,the program in part stemmed from the results of a Goodwill
survey that indicated that 75% of St. Paul residents donate items to a
charity three times per year or more, 51% of people making donations
would prefer curbside pick-up, and 65% would not go more than 10 minutes
out of their way to make a donation.

One thing I do emphasize to planners looking at adding textiles to
municipal recycling programs -- work with and partner with your local
charities! It's the clothing they cannot use that you want sent to
other textile recycling businesses.


Brenda A. Platt
Director, Materials Recovery
Institute for Local Self-Reliance
2425 18th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
Ph (202) 232-4108 fax (202) 332-0463
Web: <http://www.ilsr.org>