Sun February 23, 2014
Recycling textiles not only helps the environment but can make a little money for a municipality, according to an employee of a textile recycling company.
Brian Billig, a representative of USAgain, a firm that collects and recycles textiles in 19 states, made a presentation Friday morning before the Mountain Council of Governments. Billig said because people don't know they can recycle clothing, about 85 percent of used clothing - or 2.5 billion pounds per year - just goes into the trash and into landfills, where it takes up space that is becoming precious.
"Everybody knows what to do with bottles, cans, paper and cardboard," Billig said. "This is for your textiles, shoes, clothing, bedsheets and linens. Things people don't know what to do with, they just throw in the garbage. Only 15 percent of used textiles in this country are recycled. We are trying to make it more convenient to recycle."
Billig said virtually all of what USAgain collects can be used in some way.
"They can take a ripped-up bedsheet and use it in carpet backing or insulation," Billig said. "Or it might go to a Third World country and be cut up into T-shirts for kids. Used shoes have big holes in them. In one of the African nations, they cut new soles from old tires and make shoes we thought unusable usable again."
The textiles are collected in large bins like those nonprofit groups use. A municipality can make a little money if it hosts a bin
"This is a no-work, no-cost, no-liability program," Billig said. "We're not fundraisers. We're a for-profit company. We're here to make money, to help you make a little money, and to make the planet a little more green."
How much money a municipality makes depends upon how much they collect. "Some municipalities are paid on poundage, and some are paid a flat rate, whatever we can agree on," Billig said. "They can make anywhere from $100 per bin to $1,000 per bin per year, based upon whatever is collected."
Another factor in the compensation is what kind of materials are collected. "Like any type of recycling, aluminum isn't worth as much as steel, cotton is worth more than rayon, denim is worth more than cotton," he said.
Another for-profit company has bins out. Billig said USAgain's bins are green and white. "We are a textile recycling company, not a clothing donation company," Billig said. "We do not accept donations of clothing for the poor. We are a recycling service. About half of what we collect stays in this country, and goes to sorting facilities."
Hazleton Mayor Joe Yannuzzi said the city placed bins in its playgrounds last September, and Hazle Township has bins at Hazle Township Community Park, the Hazle Township Commons off Route 940, and next to the Hazle Township Municipal Authority office in the former Scared Heart Church hall in Harleigh.
Yannuzzi, who is also chairman of the Mountain council, said municipalities should make sure they have ordinances to properly manage the presence of the bins.
"Check your ordinances - zoning and code - and make sure you are covered with placement of the boxes (bins)," Yannuzzi said. "You can't have ice machines on sidewalks in the city. There is money involved. Businesses will block the sidewalk with them. Try to control where they go."
West Hazleton Mayor Frank Schmidt said the borough has an ordinance and also has the bins. Billig said USAgain, which has an office in Wilkes-Barre, holds an Earth Day event for schools in which the school that collects the most wins $1,000, on top of what they get for the material.
USAgain also collects gowns during prom season and gives them away, and gives coats to Catholic Social Services, Billig said.