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Old Northeast Ohio Clothes Recycled Overseas

Monday, August 25, 2014 at 7:02 AM

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Simple Recycling cuts deals with cities for curbside pick-up of used clothing

Most of us are familiar with the curbside recycling of glass, plastic and newspapers, but a Northeast Ohio company has begun a program to collect old clothing, shoes and wearable accessories. ideastream's David C. Barnett has more on the program and local reaction to it.

Adam Winfield says his family has a long history in the recycling business, but this is the first time his company --- Simple Recycling --- has ever ventured into the used clothing market.

The Solon-based business sells about ten percent of what it collects to local thrift stores.  Another 10 percent is chopped-up so that the cottons, wools and polyesters can be re-used for base materials or filler.  But, Winfield says 70% is sold to international buyers.

ADAM WINFIELD: “It’s not of a quality or condition that’s acceptable in the US market for re-use and re-wearing as clothing, but there’s other markets, all over the world, that purchase these clothes and shoes, so that they can be sold in international markets, to provide access to western-styled clothing at a reasonable price.”

But, does that put him in competition with other clothes collection groups like Goodwill or Purple Heart?  Winfield cites EPA statistics that say only about 15% of clothing and household discards currently get donated to such charitable organizations.  He says his company is interested in the other 85% that generally goes to landfills.

This past June, the program was started in the Summit County community of Norton.  City Administrative Officer Valerie Carr says her focus is on household items that are just going to get tossed.

VALERIE CARR: Maybe old towels, shoes that have holes in them --- things that you would not donate to a charitable organization. Anything that we can keep out of the landfill, saves us on tipping fees.

Carr says she also likes the fact that the city actually gets a little money back in the process --- Simple Recycling pays a penny-a-pound for everything that is collected.

In addition to Norton, Simple Recycling has started the program in several other Summit County cities and in Michigan.  They are going to bring it to Cuyahoga County --- Bay Village --- in October. 

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Economy, Community/Human Interest, Environment, Government/Politics

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