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New Law Might Boost Clothing Recycling

Fri September 5, 2014

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Increasingly, charity-minded Americans who want to ensure their good will is not squandered turn to websites that rank organizations based on how much of their income is spent on salaries and how much of it actually goes to the causes they purport to support.

It's only natural in an age when money is tighter and information is so available that many people are not blindly giving it away.  So it makes sense that when you donate your old jeans, coats and shoes that you know where they're going, whether someone will profit from them and what will be done with them.

On Valentine's Day, South Elgin-based state Sen. Karen McConnaughay introduced legislation that sought to clarify all of that.  Starting Jan. 1, 2015, all of the big metal clothing and book donation boxes you find in parking lots throughout the suburbs will be required to have permanent labels on them that include the name, address and contact information for the charity or company responsible for them as well as a declaration that they're owned by a for-profit organization or a recognized charity.

The bill, co-sponsored by House Reps. Mike Tryon of Crystal Lake and Kay Hatcher of Yorkville, among others, scooted through both the Senate and House with little fanfare and was signed by Gov. Quinn last week.

Beyond creating greater transparency, why should this matter to you?  We hope that it encourages more people to donate their old duds -- whether to a charity or a business that profits from it -- rather than throwing them away.  Is that old dress not classy enough for a resale shop? Are those old jeans a little too frayed for Goodwill? There is a home for them, and it's not in a landfill.

The director of the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County notes that despite resale shops, thrift stores and a variety of drop-off boxes, about 85 percent of all textile waste goes into landfills.  That's an average of about 70 pounds per person each year.  With so many people in this country and the world living at or below the poverty level, no pair of jeans is too frayed or beyond repair.  The amount of waste this country produces is a crime.

One proponent of the new law is West Chicago-based USAgain, one of the larger clothing recyclers. USAgain, for instance, sells what can be worn to those who can't afford better and turns the rest into rags and insulation.  It donates a portion of its proceeds to local charities.  So, take the extra step to reuse and recycle. It's good for the environment and your fellow man.  And now, feel confident that you know where your donations will go.