Elgin Boys and Girls Club Members Visit USAgain West Chicago for Field Trip

Wed December 29, 2010

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By Marie Wilson

Adrian Chavira and Fernando Vargas learned something new Wednesday, and they weren't even in school.

The lesson: Clothing can be recycled. The location: The West Chicago warehouse of USAgain Clothes Collection System, a company that recycles clothes and shoes.

Adrian and Fernando, both 13, of Elgin, and 10 other youngsters from the Boys and Girls Club of Elgin toured the warehouse to learn about the process of textile recycling.

"It was cool to see what they do with the clothes, not so they just sit there and rot, but they recycle it," Fernando said.

USAgain has hundreds of red-and-white or green-and-white collection boxes outside businesses in many suburban communities. Employees pick up clothes and shoes from the boxes when they're full, then bring them to the West Chicago warehouse to be weighed, compressed, packaged and shipped to a wholesaler or recycled, said Carlo Cavallaro, the company's director of government affairs and senior legal counsel, during a presentation to the kids.

"The whole goal is to divert the clothes from the landfills," Cavallaro said. "From the green perspective, the highest and best use is just to take it from your closet and put it in someone else's."

About three-quarters of the clothes and shoes USAgain collects are resold and worn again in the U.S. or abroad. The remaining quarter of the materials are grated and recycled into products such as insulation for dishwashers, Cavallaro said.

The company does not have any collection boxes in Elgin, but is working to gain the city's permission to locate some there in the spring, possibly including one at the Boys and Girls Club on Dundee Avenue near downtown, Cavallaro said.

"When the box shows up, they'll understand exactly what it does and why it's there," Cavallaro said. "This is a way for us to help green the city of Elgin and help raise revenue for the club house."

Boys and Girls Club members went home with a gift from the company - their choice of used coats that were collected in USAgain boxes, and about 50 more items of winter clothing to distribute to others involved with the club.

"We'll put (the coats) out during pickup time and they'll be gone," said Kristy Rapps, education director for the Boys and Girls Club. "The stuff that we get donated, we usually leave out for the parents."

Adrian and Fernando's new knowledge that clothes can be recycled is also news to many adults who don't realize textiles can have second lives, said Rasham Grewal, USAgain's marketing manager.

"People do not know much about textile recycling, but it's such an important aspect," Grewal said. "(Kids) need to play a big part, that's how we can reach our goals of zero waste."


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