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How One Company Is Making Textile Recycling as Simple as Possible

Simple Recycling Is Shaking Up the Secondhand Clothing Market

Fast fashion has changed how we view clothing. According to Sonny Wilkins of Simple Recycling, styles rotate out about every four to six weeks, and clothing is so inexpensive that most of us don’t give a second thought to throwing away a T-shirt or a pair of jeans. But when you learn that 12 to 15 million tons of textiles, about 85 percent of all clothing, are sent to landfills each year in the United States, you begin to see the bigger issue. 

Part of the problem is that curbside textile recycling programs are few and far between. Even if you donate gently-used items to a charity, there’s a chance they will end up in the trash if they can’t reuse or sell them. That’s where Simple Recycling steps in, offering recycling services to rescue clothing from a single-use lifecycle. 

What started as a free service in one city in 2014 has rapidly expanded to serve five states and four million residents. 

Collaborating With Municipalities to Bring in Curbside Recycling

Old clothing rarely has a place to go once someone is done wearing it. Some local charities have drop-off locations or offer a pickup about once a year, but not everyone takes advantage of those opportunities. Recognizing the gap, Simple Recycling came up with the idea to offer a curbside program that’s free to cities and their residents.

Their mission is reflected in their company name - to keep it simple. It was a conscious decision to keep their services free in order to accomplish the key goal of increasing landfill diversion rates while also making a difference.

As an added incentive for cities to participate in the program, Sonny explains that they compensate the municipality for the material collected. They are paid by the ton regardless of the condition of the material.

Commitment to Textile Recycling

"When we receive clothing, it's recycled."
Sonny Wilkins | Simple Recycling

Vans run scheduled pickup routes to pick up the used clothing collected in bright green bags on the curb. One of Simple Recycling’s local partners then weighs everything and loads the items onto a trailer bound for a thrift store or secondhand clothing shop. The clothing is then sorted and categorized by quality and best use. They determine what is suitable for resale on their retail floors, and take about 10 to 15 percent of clothing from the trailer. 

The remaining articles are either sent to international partners that deal specifically with textile recycling, or are processed for raw materials.

Items Accepted for Recycling:

  • Men's Clothing
  • Women's Clothing
  • Children's Clothing
  • Coats and Jackets
  • Shoes
  • Purses
  • Hats
  • Blankets
  • Drapes/Curtains
  • Pillows
  • Sleeping Bags
  • Backpacks

*For a complete list of accepted items click here.

In 2016, Simple Recycling took in 10 million pounds of textiles and aims to recycle even more in 2017. 

“The premise is that we want to make is as simple for a resident to recycle as it would be to throw an item away.”
Sonny Wilkins | Simple Recycling

To learn more about their recycling efforts and see if there is a scheduled curbside pickup coming to your neighborhood soon, head over to their website.