The Trash Blog

Who Wants My Worn Out Jacket?

Since I didn’t find a use for my worn-out clothing at Our Social Fabric, I’ve been doing a bit more sleuthing. The next logical step was those clothing drop-off bins you see scattered around town. Charities like Big Brothers, BC Children’s Hospital, and many others have their names plastered all over these things, so I thought putting my jacket in there might let it end up being useful to someone.

Aren't these bins proof that my old clothes are worth something? McGraw-Hill says that the three biggest charities collecting postconsumer textiles in the US are Goodwill Industries, the Salvation Army, and St Judes. These organizations collect way more textiles than they can sell in their stores and they sell the rest internationally. That's a different story.

Aren’t these bins proof that my old clothes are worth something? McGraw-Hill says that the three biggest charities collecting postconsumer textiles in the US are Goodwill Industries, the Salvation Army, and St Judes. These organizations collect way more textiles than they can sell in their stores and they sell the rest internationally. That’s a different story.

An organization called the Council for Textile Recycling says that each US resident throws out 70 pounds of textiles a year and donates an additional 12 pounds a year. Realizing that those charitable little bins don’t seem to be solving the textile waste issue, I thought it best to check up on them. So I pulled out my telephone and got down to business.

Although I have never been known for my telephone abilities, I can give the little instrument quite a workout.

Although I have never been known for my telephone abilities, I can give the little instrument quite a workout.

I called the number on the Big Brothers bin and spoke with a woman named Shelly. She told me that they didn’t have any use for ripped or worn-out clothing, as was clearly stated on their bin, and perhaps I should try calling Salvation Army. If I put my jacket in their bin, it’s going to end up in the garbage.

I began to feel that there wasn't going to be anyone who wanted my jacket.

I began to feel that there wasn’t going to be anyone who wanted my jacket. All I’m looking for is someone who knows the value of a superb piece of cloth like this, someone who can see past the frayed holes and patches of wear. 13.12 million tons of textiles were landfilled or burned in 2010 (EPA), even though textiles have a market value: $80 to $150 per ton (McGraw-Hill).

The BC Children’s Hospital Auxiliary said the same thing: they sell it to Salvation Army by the pound, but weren’t sure if worn or torn clothing was useful. I expressed my concern that since the McGraw-Hill Recycling Handbook said postconsumer textile waste was 4-6% of all MSW generated in the US, I was worried my worn-out jacket would get tossed in the waste heap when they pulled it out of the bin. They said I should call the Salvation Army.

I didn't seem to be making myself clear, so I put the phone up to my jacket.

Sometimes the eloquent silence of the materials themselves speaks far louder than our foolish words. All you have to do is visit the super-stocked shelves and racks of your nearest thrift store to realize that there are way more clothes than we need.

I called the Salvation Army’s Regional Recycling Center and was told to speak with the warehouse manager. I tried calling him four times, but never got an answer, and he hasn’t yet returned any of my messages.

The Developmental Disabilities Association (DDA) said that they can accept torn or worn-out clothing in their bins: they sell the clothes wholesale by weight to Value Village, the woman on the phone told me that whatever Value Village can’t use as merchandise in their stores, they bale and sell overseas, and if it’s not suitable for that, Value Village ‘rags it out.’

When words failed me, I fell back on my good friend Thorstein Veblen.

I felt that the best person to make the case that my jacket deserves to live on was the great Thorstein Veblen, who said, “As fast as a person makes a new acquisitions, and becomes accustomed to the resulting new standard of wealth, the new standard forthwith ceases to afford appreciably greater satisfaction than the earlier standard did.”

I couldn’t find a central office location for Value Village in Vancouver, so I called one of their stores. The woman who answered transferred me to the warehouse. In the warehouse I spoke with a woman who said, No, worn out or torn clothing was not something they had a use for. When I asked what happens if they get such items in donations, she said they bale it and ship it somewhere in the states, a place called Seesa. She didn’t know how to spell it. Several different internet searches turned up nothing in the textile recycling industry that sounded like Seesa.

When I called the Canuck’s Place, who’s number is also on quite a few bins, a woman named Cory told me that she didn’t know if they could use my jacket, but she thought they might. She told me to get in touch with a man named Matt at Trans Continental Textile Recycling. So the bins were mostly a bust: half of them said they couldn’t use my worn-out jacket, and the other half said they could, but only had a nebulous idea of what use it might be put to.

You're Next

The next step is to speak with this Matt fellow and see if he can’t fill me in on what it means to ‘rag my jacket out.’

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This entry was written by Philip and published on March 15, 2013 at 6:33 pm. It’s filed under Facts, Non-profits, Recycling, Textiles and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Who Wants My Worn Out Jacket?

  1. Chris Stewart on said:

    Excellent. Wonderfully expressive pictures. Congratulations to you both! This was entertaining and enlightening. 13.12 million tons x $80 to $150 per ton is between $1 billion and $2 billion a year. If you needed a lucrative career, this might be it!

  2. Pingback: Why Can’t You Put Clothes in Your Recycle Bin? | The Trash Blog

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