Mon December 5, 2011
Originally Published by Peter Kaspari
December 5, 2011 in the Fort Dodge Messenger
A way to donate to people in need and support local businesses has been popping up in the Fort Dodge area for the past year.
The green boxes, which are property of USAgain, will take used clothing items, linens and shoes. USAgain will then recycle those items by giving them to people not only in the United States, but across the world as well.
Spokeswoman Jen Hirsch said USAgain, which is a for-profit organization, provides a much-needed destination for items that would otherwise have been thrown away.
"According to the EPA, 12.7 million tons of textiles are discarded or thrown away every year," she said. "A lot of those items are perfectly reusable and rewearable. Most people don't think twice about throwing it away."
Hirsch said just because clothes may not be popular doesn't mean they should be wasted.
"One thing I think has always been a struggle is people having clothes that are out of style," she said. "They're rewearable, but maybe they'll just sit there. There's a huge demand for that kind of thing overseas. It's perfectly usable and perfectly resellable in other countries."
Founded in 1999, the Chicago-based organization operates 10,000 drop boxes in 15 states; locally, there are seven boxes in Fort Dodge, two in Webster City, and one in Algona.
In the past year, Hirsch said USAgain underwent an expansion. They launched in San Francisco, and expanded their operations in Iowa and California.
"We went through a major rebranding exercise," Hirsch said. "We have a new fleet of more environmentally friendly trucks, and we're in the process of making sure all our bins have our new logo and all of our messaging that makes it clear who we are and what we do. We've experienced major growth over the past few years."
Hirsch said though there are no plans for expansion in 2012, USAgain will be continuing to make sure all the boxes have the same color scheme and information.
Though the company is for-profit, Hirsch said USAgain does everything it can to make sure people are aware of this. She said it's on all their boxes, and it's also mentioned in the first sentence on the home page of their website.
"We know that there are many, many different competing organizations," she said. "Obviously, people should support the causes that are important to them, but there is a great need for places where people can recycle items. We encourage people to provide support to the causes they are committed to, but we provide services for a convenient way to gid rid of items instead of throwing them in the trash."
USAgain is also involved in giving back to the community. Hirsch said they regularly team up with schools for fundraising drives, and anybody who participates in the USAgain program is rewarded as well.
"All of our bins that are placed at local businesses will receive a revenue share," she said. "Businesses and schools are compensated on a per-pound basis. It's a no-work, no-cost way for schools and businesses to gain a little extra cash on the side."
Sponsors of USAgain boxes can also choose to donate the money they receive to charities or nonprofits.
Paula Anderson, owner of Paula's Treasures, had a USAgain box installed in front of her business two months ago.
She said it's helped her business when people bring in items she can't accept.
"I've received a lot of people who are bringing in their bedding," she said. "They donate extra materials and extra clothing that may be dated. The bin has been filling up. I think it's a good way to recycle and reuse."
A proponent of recycling herself, Anderson supports USAgain and its mission.
"I'm a firm believer of a future with recycling, and it's helped keep other people aware of how important it is to recycle for our future," she said. "I think the program is a good way to give back and to recycle unwanted clothes. We all have them in our closets, and we need to just clean them out and fill up the bins."
Anderson recommends USAgain boxes for all businesses, saying the extra money she receives as part of the program is helpful too. She said getting a box installed isn't a complicated process.
"There's a phone number on the box for anyone interested," Anderson said. "Businesses can call the number, and someone will call them back. You fill out some paperwork and fax it back to them. You also draw the area you'd like to have it in, and they'll bring it. They brought it to me within two weeks."
Hirsch said the website, usagain.com, also has plenty of information about the company, including its mission and how it helps businesses and schools. There's also a real-time counter on the left side of every page on the site which explains how many items have been saved from landfills, how much landfill space has been saved, and how many pounds of carbon dioxide have been prevented from going into the atmosphere.
As of noon Friday, more than 440 million items were saved from landfills, 2 million cubic yards of landfill space was saved, and more than 2 billion pounds of carbon dioxide saved.
Hirsch said she believes the recent trend in going green has helped USAgain and related organizations.
"I think people are thinking twice about everything that they would have thrown away," she said. "I think the popularity of green publications and programming has really made people think twice about trashing something. They're asking themselves, 'How can I reuse this?' or 'How can I recycle this?'"
Contact Peter Kaspari at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org