West Hartford Partners With For-Profit Company For Curbside Textile Removal

Those moth-bitten coats and ancient bedsheets could be fated for something other than a fiery death in the local incinerator, now that West Hartford, New Britain and Bristol have partnered with an Ohio company for curbside textile removal.

Beginning Monday, residents can leave their old clothes, shoes, bags, bedding and other textile-based clutter curbside in pink bags supplied by Simple Recycling, a Solon, Ohio, based-for-profit company, which will collect the bags at normal pickup times and deliver it to their New Britain facility.

Simple Recycling will pay West Hartford one penny per pound collected, or $20 per ton, said John Phillips, West Hartford’s director of public works.

“A penny a pound, in the grand scheme of waste management, doesn’t even move the dot,” Phillips said. “But I would have done this even if we were giving it away for free.”

Because textile-based waste tends to be very heavy, it costs West Hartford about $70 per ton to either incinerate the junk or dump it in a landfill, he said. Partnering with Simple Recycling saves the town money, and prevents some trash from entering the waste stream in the first place.

A 2012 report from the Environmental Protection Agency found only 15 percent of collected textile waste was repurposed or recycled. Of 14.3 million tons of textiles collected, 12.1 million tons were discarded.

West Hartford, New Britain and Bristol are the first towns in the state to enlist the services of Simple Recycling, which operates in six states other than Connecticut. Earlier this year, founder Adam Winfield was named to waste-specific publication Waste360’s “40 Under 40” list.

But Simple Recycling has not been without its detractors. In February, three Austin nonprofits urged the city to revoke its partnership with the company, saying its pickup service was discouraging locals from donating to charitably-run thrift stores.

Phillips cautioned against a similar pushback in West Hartford.

“This isn’t a program to take away from nonprofits,” he said, urging people to continue donating, which could net them tax writeoffs. “This program is for people who don’t pay attention or care about those things, and just throw their stuff away.”

Michelle DuBois, whose West Hartford consignment shop Max & Lily’s Closet draws on the same disused clothes and shoes Simple Reycling is trying to claim, said the service nevertheless sounded like a “pretty good idea.”

“There’s definitely a need for some way to get people’s items out of their basement and to keep them out of landfills,” DuBois said.

Her only reservation lay in wanting to know what Simple Recycling does with the collected textiles.

“I’m not sure what ultimately that company does [with the textiles] in the end,” she said. “That would be what I want to know.”

A representative from Simple Recycling could not be reached for comment, but Phillips was told the waste is either sold domestically, as rags and wadding, or shipped and sold in impoverished countries abroad.

“There’s an afterlife for these things, other than going into a landfill or to incineration,” he said.

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