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Collecting Textiles – Make it Work for Your Community, Part 2

October 1, 2013

Starting a Textiles Collection Program

Step 1.  Develop a Plan - When first thinking about developing a textiles collection program in your community, the following questions will help you define the plan.

  • Does your community have an ordinance regarding collection boxes?
  • Does it matter to you if the entity you work with to collect the textiles is a non-profit or for-profit?
  • Do you expect to gain revenue from the collected textiles?
  • Do you expect data on the amount of textiles collected?  If so, how frequently?
  • How often would you want the collection box emptied?
  • Where might you place the collection box so that it is in a well-lit area and easily accessible to residents?  Do you have the permission of the property owner or supervisor to place the box at that location?
  • Is one box enough for your community?
  • What organizations, institutions, or groups can you partner with to help spread the word to residents about the importance of diverting textiles to the collection box(es) so that the town can save money on disposal and to be more environmentally friendly?

Step 2. Find Companies or Organizations That Collect Textiles in Your Geographical Area

There are many ways to find the entities that collect textiles in your area.  Following are a few strategies to use:

  • Search the Internet under “textile collection” or “recycling textiles” for your municipality or state.
  • Go directly to the websites for collection entities you are aware of (e.g., Goodwill Industries, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Baystate Textiles, etc.).
  • Call the Recycling Coordinator for your municipality and ask them if they know of any companies or organizations collecting textiles.  If you are in an area with no Recycling Coordinator, contact your state’s Environmental Agency and ask to speak with someone in the recycling department that deals with textiles.

Step 3. Conduct Due Diligence on the Potential Vendor(s)

Once you know who services your area, it is wise to do some due diligence on the company or organization that you are thinking about engaging in an agreement with.  You want to be sure that they are a reputable operation and that they meet your expectations and requirements, as detailed above.

Strategies for Researching Information on Non-profit Organizations

  • Go to Charity Navigator and/or Charity Watch and search for the independent rating of the non-profit you are thinking of working with.
  • Visit the organization’s website and find out what they say they do.
  • Research them on the Internet to find out what others are saying about them. 
  • Contact your State’s Better Business Bureau and inquire if there are any complaints against them.

 Strategies for Researching Information on For-profit Companies

  • Visit their website and find out what the company says they do.
  • Research them on the Internet to find out what others are saying about them. 
  • Contact your state’s environmental regulatory agency and ask if the company is in compliance with State requirements.
  • Contact your State’s Better Business Bureau and inquire if there are any complaints against the company.

*Importance of Vendor Transparency*

Over the last several years, there has been bad press about textiles collection operations that are not doing what they say they are with the collected textiles.  One way to avoid discrepancies related to your program is to require complete transparency from your vendor up front.  You should be able to find out what they do with the collected textiles, where they sell the collected textiles, and if they are partnering with a charity or business and how.


SMART has addressed this issue by requiring each of its members that operate collection bin services to abide by a code of conduct[1] that includes the requirement of complete transparency.


Step 4.  Develop & Sign a Contract Agreement with the Selected Vendor

Once you have completed Steps 1 – 3 and feel confident that you have the information you need, contact the company or non-profit you are interested in working with.  You can then negotiate the details of your agreement with them and schedule the start date for your collection program.

Step 5. Spreading the Word

Now that your program has started, it is time to let residents know about it and that it’s a money-saving strategy for the town (and taxpayers) that also supports environmental stewardship via material reuse and resource conservation.  Some low-cost outreach strategies are:

  • Announcements in local newspapers and on local television and radio stations.
  • Outreach to schools, churches, nonprofit organizations, and civic groups.
  • Facebook and Twitter announcements.
  • Add the information to recycling lists and announcements.

Textiles Reuse & Recycling Resources



  • Pietra Rivoli, The Travels of T-Shirt in the Global Economy, ISBN# 978-0-470-28716-3
  • Karen Tranberg Hansen, The World of Secondhand Clothing and Zambia, ISBN# 0-226-31581-9

By Mary Ann Remolador is Assistant Director & Events Organizer at the Northeast Recycling Council.  She can be reached at or 802-254-3636.

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