Chelmsford Joins Textile Recycling Program

October 30, 2017 GMT

CHELMSFORD -- Maybe you’ve been meaning to round up and donate all those old, excess clothes you or your kids don’t wear anymore, but haven’t had the time. Or perhaps you cringe when you throw out worn-out socks and ripped T-shirts, wishing there was another option besides the trash can.

The town is now providing a convenient, curbside pickup option for unwanted textiles and other household items thanks to a new partnership with Simple Recycling.

Coinciding with town recycling pickup schedules, the company will come and pick up these items for free, said Recycling & Solid Waste Coordinator Nick Parlee. Pink plastic bags, which designate the items to be collected, have been mailed out to all residents who receive curbside trash and recycling pickup from the town, he said.


“We’re trying to get people in the mindset that it’s also recycling,” Parlee said. “Put it out during your recycling week.”

The idea is to remove textiles from the trash stream, to reduce trash tonnage and produce savings for the town, he said.

The service is provided at no cost to the town, Parlee said. For each ton of items Simple Recycling collects, Chelmsford receives a $20 rebate, estimated to total $2,000 to $4,000 per year, he said. Between the rebate revenue and reduction in trash tonnage, the town could see annual financial benefits of up to $10,000, Parlee said.

Parlee stressed that Simple Recycling is a for-profit company and encouraged those who prefer to donate their items to benefit charities to continue to do so.

The partnership came about thanks to WasteZero, the waste-reduction company that provides overflow trash bags residents must purchase if they have more trash than their weekly 64-gallon limit.

“With all the drop boxes available, and all the charity options, still 6 percent of the waste stream is reusable textiles,” said WasteZero Vice President of Government Affairs and Regional Vice President of Municipal Partnerships Stephen Lisauskas. “The recycling rate is 15 percent. It’s substantially below what we find for other recyclable materials. It makes sense to increase the rate.”

Discarded textiles are one of the largest contaminants in curbside single-stream recycling, he said. People want to recycle the material, but most recycling programs are not equipped to handle it, Lisauskas said.

WasteZero partnered with Simple Recycling to help meet that need, he said. Using discarded plastic shopping bags and plastic film from a number of sources, WasteZero produces the brightly colored bags Simple Recycling uses to collect resellable, repairable and recyclable textiles and other items around the country, Lisauskas said.


Earlier this year, North Andover and Brookline were the first Massachusetts communities to join the program, followed by Burlington, Merrimac, Natick, Ashland, Grafton and now Chelmsford, he said. Programs are also rolling out in Wenham, Framingham and Somerville, and others are in the works, he said.

The program became so popular in North Andover since it started in May that the initial estimated yearly savings and revenue was revised from $3,000 to $6,000, Lisauskas said. The participating Massachusetts cities and towns are already outpacing all others across the U.S., he said.

In Chelmsford, the impact is $90 per ton, Lisauskas said. For each ton residents divert to Simple Recycling, the town doesn’t have to pay $70 to send it to the incinerator and receives $20 in return, he said.

Pretty much any textile material can go into the pink bags, from old pillows and stained blankets to ripped nylons and backpacks, Lisauskas said.

“A shoe without sole? No problem. Half a T-shirt? No problem,” he said. “Underwear, bra -- put in the bag, we can recycle it.”

Items that can’t be resold or repaired can find new life in such purposes as carpet padding or insulation, Lisauskas said.

In addition to textiles, Simple Recycling will accept items such as pots and pans, silverware, purses and costume jewelry.

All materials placed in the bags must be clean and dry, and cannot be soaked with any kind of hazardous material, such as oil or bodily fluids, Lisauskas said.

All residences will receive two pink bags to start, he said. For each bag placed at the curb, Simple Recycling will leave a new bag, and additional bags can always be requested if needed, Lisauskas said.

A full list of accepted items and more information can be found at simplerecycling.com .

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