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USAgain earns attention for collection operations around Mount Vernon | LoHud.com

Sat April 9, 2011

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MOUNT VERNON - A recycling company putting down roots in this city is seeking to capture some of the estimated 85 percent of local clothing that ends up in the trash.

Officials at USAgain 2000 want to put their green and white clothing collection bins at schools, stores and other public places as part of an expansion in the tri-state area. The for-profit, Chicago-based company recently relocated from the Hunts Point section of the Bronx to a warehouse at 18 Sargent Place, where it is processing around 176,000 pounds of used clothes each week.

The donated clothes are bundled into 1,000-pound bales that are then sold to used-clothing wholesalers for resale to thrift stores in the United States or to wholesalers in poor countries. A share of the proceeds is given to the location hosting the bin.

"We divert 1 million pounds of clothing a week from landfills," said Ted Fisher, USAgain's regional recycling manager who is leading the company's expansion effort.

While a million pounds sounds like a lot, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in 2009 Americans generated 12.73 million tons of textile waste and only 14.9 percent of it was recycled.

Some of USAgain's green and white collection bins are already placed locally, such as at the Phillips 66 at 415 E. Sandford Blvd. or the Go Green Dry Cleaner at 1163 W. Boston Post Road in Mamaroneck. Overall, the company has 1,300 bins at 1,000 locations in the tri-state area.

Fisher, 44, of Rye, said he'd like to obtain permission to put the bins in schools and parks.

"It generates funds and educates kids about recycling," Fisher said.

Fisher estimated that a busy bin with a 400-pound capacity could generate $25 to $100 a month in revenues for a school district or municipality. The company, whose name is pronounced "use again," has contracts with about 65 school districts nationwide and just began reaching out to local school districts.

In some cases the shopping malls and stores that give USAgain permission to place bins on their property ask that cash generated for the property owner be donated to charity.

USAgain would not give a dollar figure on its annual sales or business volume. Their Mount Vernon office employs 12 people plus the drivers who collect donations from the bins.

Unlike the Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries or other nonprofits known for collecting clothing to resell in their thrift stores for charitable purposes, USAgain is a for-profit company that does not operate thrift stores.

Fisher said discarding old clothes is often a question of convenience. If there is no nearby charity willing to accept old clothes, people will just throw them in the garbage, he said.

"There is enough to go around for everybody," he said.