Where does the clothing go?

June 9, 2008

By Jen Bakken
Staff Writer

Colorful boxes marked “Clothes Collection” are popping up all over the United States, including in Minnesota.

There are 30 such boxes in Wright County, three of which are located in Delano.

Many residents are using this means to dispose of unused or unwanted clothing, and bags often pile up outside of the full collection boxes.

Clothing and shoes are accepted, but where do the items go? Who is collecting the textiles, and who benefits from this means of recycling?

Some area residents may not wonder what happens to their unwanted items, and just enjoy this as a convenient means to dispose of them. The collection boxes are open 24 hours a day, and all textiles are accepted.

Other residents may be conscious of the environment, and see this as a great means of recycling.

According to information provided on the web site, www.natural-environment.com, 85 percent of all clothing ends up in landfills, and fabrics can take hundreds of years to break down.

There have been some community members who assumed the clothing went to local organizations such as Love In the Name of Christ (Love INC) Heartland, which is a respected source of assistance for area families and individuals in need.

Actually, none of this clothing directly goes to local families in need through Love INC or any other specific local organization. The clothing is sold for profit to companies and thrift stores, which, in turn, sell the items again.

The process is simple and profitable. The company behind the collection boxes is U’SAgain, and it has had offices in 13 states, including Minnesota, since 2001.

Once a business owner or land owner agrees to host a box on their property, people almost immediately begin dropping off unwanted items.

When the boxes in Delano are full, U’SAgain drivers unload them and take the items to a warehouse in Roseville. After a sorting, bundling, and baling process, they are loaded onto trucks, sold by the pound, and shipped.

“It’s a misconception that we give away the items,” said Mattias Wallander, CEO of U’SAgain, a for- profit company based in Chicago. “We wouldn’t be able to pay for the containers, the pick-up, processing, or packaging that way. But, everyone benefits by keeping textiles out of landfills.”

Currently, Randy’s Sanitation in Delano doesn’t have the ability to recycle textiles, therefore, the items are put into a landfill or incinerator. One could say these red boxes are the only way to recycle clothing or shoes; however, Love INC is always looking for donations.

The clothing donated to Love INC is free to neighbors in need, and any proceeds from items sold goes to purchase special items needed by area residents, and to help pay for the rental of their building.

“Donations are used locally for families who really need the help,” said Terri Harris, executive director of Love INC. “We pass along any torn, stained, or well-used items to other ministries, and keep the best gifts for our neighbors in need. We are here to show the love of Christ and give a hand up, not a hand out.”

For more information about Love INC, along with hours for donations or sales, call (763) 972-6547. Most places that accept used textiles do sell the items at affordable prices to help those in need.

According to U’SAgain’s web site, www.usagain2.com, the company does not see non-profit organizations such as Goodwill or Salvation Army as competitors, and does not want to collect the items given to those organizations.

U’SAgain said 15 percent of the clothes that are sold are collected again for recycling afterwards.U’SAgain does donate a percentage of sales generated to the charity of the host’s choice, and non-profit organizations can use this as a means of fundraising, as well.

On average, a collection box receives about 150 to 250 pounds of clothing per week.

Do you know more about this subject, or have a comment? E-mail news@hjpub.com