MANCHESTER, NH – The city is preparing to launch a textile recycling program that will divert tons of clothing and other wearable/fabric items from the waste stream, and generate revenue.
According to the city’s Solid Waste and Environmental Programs manager Chaz Newton, an agreement has been struck with Helpsy, a for-profit recycling company that will manage the program, assisted by WasteZero, which will serve as a “middle man” in moving an estimated 129 tons of textiles annually from Manchester to the Massachusetts Helpsy warehouse.
During the April 14 Board of Aldermen meeting, Newton explained that landfill capacity in New Hampshire is “slowly diminishing,” with an eventual expiration date at the state’s largest landfill, Turnkey Landfill in Rochester, forcing municipalities to find other options.
“For the time being textile recycling is a method to divert material that can easily be diverted,” Newton said.
The process will be fairly simple for residents, says Newton. Using a Textile Recycling widget on the city’s Public Works site, residents will be taken to a Helpsy request form which allows you to request your preferred day of pick up (not your usual trash day, to eliminate confusion, said Newton), along with your address and contact information. On pick-up day, just place items you’re discarding in a plastic bag, clearly labeled “for pick-up” outside your front door. WasteZero will pick up the bags and deliver them to Helpsy.
“Our main goal is to remove items from the waste stream and to recycle,” Newton said.
Based on results in other municipalities that participate with Helpsy’s program, including Hooksett, it is estimated that Manchester could divert 129 tons of textiles per year, which equates to approximately $9,000 in savings (at a projected $70 per ton) and $5,160 in revenue (at a projected $40 per ton).
The program, initially expected to be up and running by the end of April, has been delayed, Newton said. The city is awaiting the finalization of legal paperwork.
“I do not have a concrete date for when the program will be launched,” Newton said on Wednesday.
Textile Recyling a National Trend
The issue with shrinking landfill space and a glut of textiles in the wastestream is a national issue.
The US Environmental Protection Agency says the main source of textiles in municipal solid waste is from discarded clothing
The recycling rate for all textilesin 2018 was 14.7 percent, with 2.5 million tons recycled. Within this figure, EPA estimated that the recycling rate for textiles in clothing and footwear was 13 percent based on information from the American Textile Recycling Service. The rate for items such as sheets and pillowcases was 15.8 percent in 2018.
That’s where companies like Helpsy come in.
Capitalizing on the practial need for textile recycling, coupled with the financial opportunities – in 2021 the global textile recycling market was valued at more than $5 billion – companies like Helpsy are becoming more common.
Their belief that “clothes aren’t trash” is what motivates them ecologically, and alplifies their B Corp-status. Helpsy’s website reports 95 percent of textiles collected are reused, upcycled, or recycled; 75 percent of items are reusable; 20 percent are recyclable.
Items that can be recycled range from footwear and everyday clothing items, to outerwear, underwear, blankets, sports equipment and accessories (see list below).
Once bags arrived at the Helpsy warehouse items are sorted depending on what it is and their condition, landing in thrift stores around the country or other second-hand international markets. Items that are damaged or too worn get turned into rags for industrial use, stuffing and insulation.
In addition to the new municipal recycling program, Helpsy has designated collection bins already established in Manchester, at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church on Smyth Road and Comcast on East Industrial Park Drive.
Helpsy is a certified B-Corp, meaning that while it is a for-profit company it also focuses on social and environmental gains. You can read more here from their 2021 impact report.
Items You Will Be Able to Recycle:
Anything you can wear, sleep in, or dry yourself off with – this includes any type of material composed of natural or synthetic fibers such as products made from wool, silk, linen, cotton, polyester, leather, vinyl, hemp, and rayon.
The following items can be donated in any condition (torn, worn, stained, missing buttons, broken zippers, etc.) as long as they are clean, dry, and odorless.
Footwear (in pairs):
- Heels (wedges, pumps)
- Flip Flops
- Boots (work boots, dress boots, winter boots)
- Tops (T-shirts, blouses, shirts, tank tops)
- Outerwear (coats, jackets, blazers)
- Bottoms (pants, slacks, jeans, sweatpants, skirts, shorts)
- Bags (pocketbooks, backpacks, duffle bags, totes)
- Cloth napkins
- Table linens
- Throw rugs
- Halloween costumes
- Sports jerseys
- Pet clothing