Wed October 12, 2011

Where do the clothes go?

Originally published October 12, 2011 by Waukesha Now

For the past several years, large metal clothing donation boxes sited in high-traffic locations throughout Waukesha have offered area residents an easy way to drop off unneeded clothing and shoes. Many assume that any clothing and shoes dropped off at these boxes are given to local charities that will get the goods to needy families in the Waukesha area. Unfortunately, that assumption is incorrect.

At least two of the companies behind Waukesha-area donation boxes are actually for-profit businesses that resell most of the goods dropped into their boxes. USAgain, a for-profit company based in Chicago, has seven drop boxes in Waukesha. Second Chance Recycling, also based in Illinois, has at least one box in Waukesha, located at the Exxon Mobil gas station at 401 E. North St.

USAgain's boxes are green and white (some older ones are red), and clearly state on the box that the business is a for-profit company; the Second Chance Recycling box doesn't say anything about the fact that the company is for profit. According to USAgain company spokeswoman Jen Hirsch, half of all goods collected in the company's boxes are resold within the U.S. to thrift stores or wholesalers, 30 percent is resold internationally, and 20 percent is recycled into things like rags and industrial materials.

Both companies donate a portion of their proceeds to nonprofits. USAgain's website states that more than 700 organizations have benefited from the company's charitable giving program. And for the past two years, Second Chance has been listed in the annual report of Milwaukee-based COA Youth and Family Centers as donating between $1,500 and $4,999.