‘Recycling never goes out of style’: Find new uses for your old clothes

'Recycling never goes out of style': Find new uses for your old clothes

Two orange Simple Recycling bags to the left of a green recycling bin
Simple Recycling is a for-profit Ohio-based company that provides curbside textile collections in 30 Michigan communities. Photo Credit: Simple Recycling

This story was originally published on The Detroit Free Press.

Behold those pit-stained T-shirts, socks with holes in the heels and out-of-style paisley-patterned dress shirts taking up space in your closet.

If ever there was a scenario where the cliché “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” was applicable, this is it.

“There is a value for most of even the rattiest of textiles that people tend to discard,” said Michael Csapo, general manager of the Resource Recovery and Recycling Authority of Southwest Oakland County (RRRASOC), which manages recycling programs in nine metro Detroit communities.

Unfortunately, much of that value is never realized, even though charities and other collection organizations can find use for virtually any old piece of clothing, Csapo notes. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 85% of textiles end up in landfills, and a 2018 study determined that clothing is one of the world’s fastest-growing waste streams.

Recycling advocates throughout Michigan are working to reverse that trend.

“Fashions might come and go, but reducing the amount of material that enters landfills never goes out of style,” said Emily Freeman, recycling specialist in the Material Management Division of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

Education is key

In June, EGLE launched “Know It Before You Throw It,” a campaign to improve both the quality and quantity of recycling in Michigan.

With the Recycling Raccoon Squad serving as campaign ambassadors, EGLE aims to inform Michiganders about best recycling practices while doubling the statewide recycling rate to 30% by 2025 and ultimately reaching 45% annually.

Although rules often vary by community, textiles are typically not accepted by traditional curbside recycling services, including RRRASOC.

Old clothing is, however, a welcomed and important revenue stream for Michigan charities that collect donations at drop-off facilities.

Piles of sorted clothing at Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids are prepared for recycling
In 2018, Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, for example turned the 600,000 individual donations it received into $25 million in revenues from sales at its network of retail outlets. The proceeds went toward funding the charity’s various skills training and rehabilitation programs. Photo Credit: Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids

And when it comes to textiles, there’s one overriding message recycling specialists want to deliver: Leave the sorting to us.

While organizations that collect used textiles can’t take items such as gasoline-soaked rags, those holey sweaters and shirts bearing pizza grease stains are perfectly OK.

“The trickiest part is educating people that we really don’t care about the condition of their clothing that they want to give us, as long as it’s clean and dry,” said Nick Carlson, vice president of donated goods operations at Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids and a director of the Michigan Recycling Coalition. “We ask them not to edit their donations. Trust us to get everything into the proper market.”

Although technology for turning old clothes into new garments is advancing rapidly, at this time it’s more a matter of reusing textiles than technically recycling them.

But like recycling, reusing also offers environmental and economic benefits.

The EPA estimates that textiles — mostly clothing but also items such as carpeting, furniture, sheets and towels — account for 8% of material going into landfills, providing a significant opportunity to conserve space.

“It’s also one of the higher-value items that goes into the waste stream,” said Adam Winfield, founder and president of Simple Recycling, a for-profit Ohio-based company that provides curbside textile collections in 30 Michigan communities — primarily in metro Detroit but also in Lansing and East Lansing.

Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, for example, in 2018 turned the 600,000 individual donations it received into $25 million in revenues from sales at its network of retail outlets, Carlson said. The proceeds went toward funding the charity’s various skills training and rehabilitation programs.

There’s also a personal perk to donating clothing. Taxpayers who itemize can claim a charitable deduction on their federal tax returns.

Worldwide market

There are essentially four markets for the used clothing that is collected by Simple Recycling and charities such as Goodwill.

Although figures can fluctuate, typically between 10% and 20% is considered top quality and is resold by American thrift stores.

The vast majority, however, is not resalable in the U.S. and is further sorted for international export or broken down for raw materials.

As much as 45% of the total collected is exported as secondhand clothing. Roughly 30% is converted into wiping rags for industrial or residential use, and around 20% is recycled into post-consumer fiber that goes into products such as home insulation, carpet padding or sound-deadening material for automobiles.

Only about 5% ends up as waste, Winfield said. “So you can see, clothing is a category of material that is highly recyclable and easily repurposed,” he said. “Our slogan is ‘Let your clothing be loved again.’”

Charitable endeavor

It was the lack of love shown to used apparel that gave rise to Simple Recycling, which test-marketed its concept in 2014 in South Lyon and Wixom, members of RRRASOC.

Usually, people must drop off their old garments at collection sites operated by charities or during special events staged by municipalities — an extra step that largely explains why most clothing is simply thrown in the trash, Csapo said.

Winfield figured that more residents would take the time to bundle clothing for reuse or recycling if they were offered the convenience of free curbside pickup — and the numbers have borne that out.

Simple Recycling now serves 250 communities in seven states, and in 2018, it collected 183 tons of material among the nine RRRASOC communities alone, which, beyond South Lyon and Wixom, are Farmington, Farmington Hills, Milford, Milford Township, Novi, Southfield and Walled Lake.

On residents’ standard recycling pickup days, Simple Recycling trucks follow behind RRRASOC vehicles to collect the clothing set out in bags supplied by the company and drop off additional bags for further collections.

“We make it simple and convenient,” Winfield said, adding that the service is free to communities. In fact, for every ton of materials it collects, Simple Recycling pays $20 to municipalities, which also benefit by sending less waste to landfills and therefore paying fewer fees.

Both Winfield and Csapo stress that Simple Recycling is meant to supplement, not replace, charitable giving.

“First and foremost, we want residents to donate clothing to charities,” Csapo said.

Said Winfield: “We’re after that 85% that otherwise would get thrown away, not the 15% that is donated to charities.”

Actually, Csapo said, there’s at least anecdotal evidence that charitable donations of clothing increase in areas where Simple Recycling operates because residents become educated about the market for old textiles.

“Folks see there’s an opportunity to make sure things go back into the value chain instead of into the trash,” he said.

Carlson echoes those sentiments.

“Looking at it as a member of the Michigan Recycling Coalition, anything that improves sustainability, I’m in favor of. But I’d really urge people to first consider donating their old clothes to a local charity because that helps boost the local economy,” he said, adding, “Material donations are the lifeblood of Goodwill.”

Waste not this holiday season – or at least recycle as much as possible

Waste not this holiday season – or at least recycle as much as possible

A mom wrapping presents with two kids.
Make the planet and a loved one happy by giving them a gift wrapped in recyclable paper.

This story was originally published on The Detroit Free Press.

While the holidays are a time to spread joy and happiness among family and friends, they’re also an opportunity to show Mother Nature a little love.

Americans create 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day than any other time of year, according to statistics compiled by Stanford University.

The output includes boxes, packing materials, wrapping paper, electronics and disposable eating utensils. And although some of that holiday-related waste should go directly into the trash, much of it is recyclable.

But even among the hustle and bustle of holiday gatherings, it’s important to take the time to recycle the right way, said Matt Flechter, recycling market development specialist at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

“We’re urging Michigan residents to be nice to the environment over the holidays by properly recycling whatever they can,” he said. “Sound recycling practices should never take a holiday.”

That’s a message that EGLE has been spreading since June, when it kicked off its statewide “Know It Before You Throw It” recycling education campaign featuring the Recycling Raccoon Squad.

Quality and quantity

EGLE’s primary goal is to improve the quality of materials people are putting into recycling containers by educating them about best recycling practices. At the same time, EGLE is aiming to boost the quantity of material recycled by doubling the state’s recycling rate to 30% by 2025 and ultimately reaching 45% annually.

“Achieving those goals would produce a gift that keeps on giving,” Flechter said, citing not only the statewide environmental benefits but also the potential $300 million annual economic impact that would result from meeting the 30% recycling rate benchmark.

Recycling specialists statewide are getting into the spirit and endorsing the “Know It Before You Throw It” campaign. They are also urging residents to take steps to limit the stream of waste produced during the holidays.

“Beyond ‘recycling,’ ‘reducing’ and ‘reusing’ are also important ‘R’s,’” said Natalie Jakub, executive director of Green Living Science, the educational arm of Recycle Here!, Detroit’s drop-off recycling center and neighborhood recycling program. “While the message of recycling is certainly important, cutting down on consumption whenever possible is another way to reduce the amount of material going into the landfill.”

As a holiday-related example, try placing gifts in reusable bags instead of wrapping them in paper, she suggested.

A recycling list to check twice

Recycling rules can vary by community or even from one recycling center to another, so Michigan residents are urged to check with their local provider about what is acceptable in their area to ensure they don’t end up on a list of naughty recyclers, Flechter said.

Here are some general guidelines for handling common holiday items:

  • Cardboard and gift boxes. While it’s best to reuse boxes, they’re also almost universally accepted by curbside recycling services, Flechter said. “Just be sure to break them down before placing them in your recycling container,” he said. “That saves valuable space for both you and the hauler.”
  • Disposable eating utensils, plates and cups. These should go in the trash because, among other reasons, they likely contain food residue – a contaminant that can ruin a whole recycling load. Even never-used paper plates are potentially problematic because they might have an outer layer of wax, Jakub said. Can’t stomach the thought of throwing them away? “Use your fine china and silverware instead,” she said.
  • Paper towels and napkins. Put these in the trash or a compost bin, Flechter said, since they’re probably soiled by food. Aluminum foil that is free of food contamination, however, is recyclable.
  • Wrapping paper. The answer here is “maybe.” Wrapping paper is recyclable, provided it isn’t adorned with glitter or metal. However, “that’s not always easy to determine,” Jakub said. “So the recycling center would probably typically tell you it doesn’t want it,” she said. Instead, try wrapping presents in newspaper or plain brown craft paper, which is always recyclable.
  • Packing materials. The packing peanuts, clear plastic padding and Styrofoam that protect electronic devices are typically not recyclable curbside. However, many communities – including Detroit – have drop-off centers where Styrofoam blocks and packing peanuts are accepted, and many large retailers collect clear and other types of plastic bags.
  • Plastic shopping bags. “With the exception of a couple of municipalities in Michigan, these are almost never acceptable for curbside recycling because they can clog a recycling center’s machinery,” Flechter said. However, large retailers such as Meijer, Walmart and Target will collect plastic bags for recycling.
  • Holiday lights. Recycling centers don’t want holiday light strings because they can get tangled in machinery, so they shouldn’t go in curbside recycling containers. Places that sell lights, on the other hand, will often accept them for recycling. Jakub also advised to avoid putting lights in the trash because they might contain harmful chemicals.
  • Batteries. Almost 40% of battery sales occur during the holiday season, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Home improvement stores such as Home Depot often offer collection bins for rechargeable batteries, or check for local hazardous waste collection events where all types of batteries are accepted. Visit michigan.gov/eglehhw to find local drop-off sites. Like holiday light strings, batteries should not go in the trash or curbside recycling.
  • Electronics. Retailers such as Best Buy or local collection events will take your used tech.
  • Disposable tablecloths. Discard both the plastic and paper varieties of these because chances are they contain at least some traces of food contamination.
  • Greeting cards. Just like any type of paper, these are typically recyclable in your curbside container, Flechter said. Just make sure there is no glitter or metal on them.
  • Receipts. All those glossy, thermal paper receipts you collected while buying awesome gifts are not recyclable because they are coated in plastic to make them durable.
  • Tinsel, ornaments and artificial trees. All of those should go in the trash or be donated to someone else for use.

Comprenew prevents electronic items from ending up in landfills

Comprenew prevents electronic items from ending up in landfills

This story was originally published by FOX17 for Morning Mix.

Morning Mix has partnered with the Michigan Department of Environment Great Lakes Energy to talk about recycling. However, this goes way beyond paper and plastics.

Comprenew is a non-profit certified electronic recycler. They are able to take apart things like cellphones, computers, televisions and beyond, refurbish what they can and properly dispose of what they can't. If a computer lands in their hands, they will make sure all of the data is removed, too. You can imagine this is particularly important when they are dealing with a corporate client.

Unfortunately, Michigan's recycling rate is about 15 percent, putting us at the lowest for the Great Lakes region. The goal is to increase that number to 30 percent by 2025. EGLE is doing this with their campaign lead by the Recycle Raccoon Squad.

Along with keeping harmful items out of the landfills, Comprenew helps remove employment barriers. An estimate 65 percent of their workforce has some type of barrier. If you would like to learn more about Comprenew, visit their website comprenew.org

Recycling – how to do it correctly


This story was originally published by WOOD-TV for eightWest.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – This is truly a time of year filled with “stuff”, we give and receive over the holidays. We’re also purging to make space and even trying to start the New Year on an organized note and recycling can play a big role in all that!

Today, we’re going to focus on recycling clothing and household items, as part of big effort underway by Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

The goal is to encourage folks to recycle, and show how they can recycle better, take a look!

Goodwill is a big part of that kind of recycling and does so much good in our community and helps others to recycle. You can learn more about drop off their locations, and what they do by visiting their website.

If you’d like to get tips on recycling all types of materials or learn more about the campaign by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, visit their website. And it’s always important to check with your local trash hauler, because the rules for recycling can be a bit different depending on where you live.

Learn the rules for recycling batteries

Learn the rules for recycling batteries

This story was originally published on ClickonDetroit.com/live-in-the-d.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy has launched a “Know It Before You Throw It” campaign to help consumers recycle more.

One item that people struggle to recycle is batteries.

“Live in the D” host Tati Amare spoke to Amy Lafferty from EGLE and Danielle Spalding from Battery Solutions to review the right way to recycle batteries instead of simply throwing them away.

Lafferty said that batteries are not commonly accepted curbside, but you should check with your local services.

Battery Solutions is one place that takes any battery and recycles it for you.

You can order a battery recycling pail that you keep in your home until it’s full, and then you mail it back so your batteries can be recycled safely.

If the battery has lithium written on it, or it is over 9 volts, you should tape each end before putting it in the pail.

If you want to learn more about recycling your batteries, visit batterysolutions.com.

Paper recycling featuring Paper McKay

This story was originally published by WSYM for Morning Blend.

Jill Greenberg, Spokeswoman, and Paper McKay, Recycling Raccoon, Michigan Dept of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy, talk about their Know It Before You Throw It initiative and how they are trying to educate the public about the benefits of recycling and exactly what can be recycled. For more information, please visit www.recyclingracoons.org .

Want to check out other Morning Blend segments? Visit the FOX47News Website .

Plastic recycling 101

This story was originally published by WOOD-TV for eightWest.

For all the great natural resources we have in Michigan, it might surprise you to know, our state is among one of the lowest recycling states in the nation! Recycling has a wide range of environmental and economic benefits, plus there are so many materials that can be recycled like metal, paper, and plastic. Today, we’re going to focus on recycling plastic, how to do it and how some really useful products are being made locally from recycled plastic.

We all know recycling is good for the environment but many people don’t realize the number of local jobs that come from recycling, more than landfills.

For instance, Padnos has more than 700 team members at locations throughout the state and they offer extensive training and benefits like helping employees pay for a large portion of their college tuition.  And lots of products are made from recycled plastic — automotive parts, office chairs, recycling bins, that’s a real bonus too!

To learn more about Padnos, you can visit padnos.com.

Learn how this company uses recycled plastic to make high-quality products

Learn how this company uses recycled plastic to make high-quality products

This story was originally published by FOX17 for Morning Mix.

Plastic. It's in cars, refrigerators, furniture, computers and so many other objects we encounter in our everyday lives.

Recycling plastic is not only important, it has become a competitive market. Getting the best quality recyclable material helps local companies, like Davidson Plyforms, compete.

Todd took a trip to Davidson Plyforms to see what happens to the plastic put in the recycling bin and to learn more about Michigan's efforts to increase the amount the community recycles.

Learn more about Davidson Plyforms and how they're taking advantage of recycled materials on their website.

Also, learn more about the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy campaign and get more tips and information on recycling, visit recyclingraccoons.org.

Not all paper is recyclable – learn how to recognize the trash

Not all paper is recyclable – learn how to recognize the trash

This story was originally published by WDIV Channel 4 for Live in the D.

The holidays are approaching us fast! If you plan to wrap gifts or open gifts there will be lots of paper involved. But not all paper is recyclable. The Michigan Department of Environmental, Great Lakes & Energy or EGLE is aimed at encouraging people to recycle the right way and have some guidelines to share about recycling paper.

Host, Jason Carr had a chat with Hugh McDiarmid with EGLE and Natalie Jakub with Green Living Science about what type of paper is recyclable. Types of paper like receipts and wrapping paper cannot be recycled. Things to look out for are glossy or wax coating paper that must be thrown in the trash.

Watch this video to learn what types of paper can be recycled.

For more information about recycling, visit recyclingraccoons.org. To learn more about Green Living Science programs or volunteer opportunities visit greenlivingscience.org.

Not all paper can be recycled; here’s what goes in the bin

Not all paper can be recycled; here’s what goes in the bin

This story was originally published by FOX17 for Morning Mix.

Paper is one of those things everyone knows can be recycled, however what's lesser known is that not all paper belongs in the recycling bin.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy wants to encourage the community to recycle properly, and they're doing just that with their new Know it Before You Throw It campaign.

The following can be recycled as long as they are clean and don't have any food residue or grease stains on them:

  • Paper with staples/clips
  • Magazines and newspapers
  • Envelopes with plastic windows
  • Wrapping paper without glitter or foil

These types of paper cannot be recycled:

  •  Used paper towels, tissues or napkins
  • Cash register receipts

When the improper materials are put in the curbside bin, it contaminates the proper materials already inside. If the materials are contaminated, the entire bin is thrown out and cannot be recycled.

Learn more about EGLE's new campaign, get more tips and information on recycling by visiting recyclingraccoons.org.

Also, learn more about what the City of Grand Rapids is doing to improve recycling efforts at grandrapidsmi.gov.

© Copyright 2019, EGLE. All Rights Reserved.

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