Rhode Island’s landfill has about 24 more years of life left in it, but a new push to recycle stained, worn and damaged clothes and other textiles may help stretch out that life a little longer.
That’s the message inherent in the R.I. Resource Recovery Corporation’s push to raise awareness and advocate for recycling everything from sweaters, blankets and stuffed toys, to backpacks, shoes, belts and Halloween costumes that may not be fit to wear. The state agency has gotten eight different collectors to agree to place stickers on nearly 900 bins around the state that are used for this purpose.
To promote the effort on Aug. 21 in a Warwick Mall parking lot, the collectors set up bins and asked for donations.
Krystal Noiseux, the state agency’s recycling program manager has led this campaign, following a presentation a year ago by a trade group known as SMART, or Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association, whose past president made a pitch to educate consumers last spring.
“It was really news to us that textile recyclers – for-profit, nonprofit or hybrid – actually wanted clothing and other textiles that were torn, ripped or stained and that people would think weren’t suitable for recycling,” she said. “Once we realized the potential to reduce that amount of textiles from being buried in the landfill, we wanted to reach out to the public to make sure they knew what to do.”
As long as the textiles are dry, have no odor, and have not been exposed to hazardous waste, they are considered acceptable, Noiseux said.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ocean State has always recycled gently used clothing and household items and has 125 bins in 50 locations around the state, said George Evans Marley, marketing and community-outreach specialist. The retail outlet Savers takes some of the nonprofit’s recycled clothing in exchange for money for the nonprofit’s mentoring program, he said.
“We are quite in favor of it,” he said of the state’s promotional efforts. “It allows us to open up what we collect and make it better known.”
Kevin Fisette, director of donated goods for Goodwill Industries of Rhode Island in Providence, one of the collectors whose bins carry a new sticker broadcasting the message, agrees. “It’s just getting the public to relearn what they should be donating in the bin. Most people think it has to be clothing that’s in good shape but if it’s stained or ripped it can be repurposed.”