SpinGreen Took a Fresh Look at Textile Recycling and New York's Bin-Vasion

New Approaches Can Help Boost Textile Recycling

How is it that in such an increasingly competitive landscape for clothing donations, so much material still ends up in landfills?

According to EPA estimates, every year, more than 13 million tons of textile wastes find their way into landfills, amounting to 5.7 percent of U.S. municipal waste stream. In New York City alone, every year, over 200,000 tons of textile waste are thrown away in landfills.

Usually, old clothes are dumped rather than recycled, in spite of several textile recycling operations at work within the City, including SpinGreen, a company that took a different approach to fulfilling this component of closing the loop.

Textile Recycling and New York City’s ‘Bin-Vasion’

The flow of textiles to the landfill results from a lack of convenient alternatives. The efforts have intensified to correct this deficiency. The Bloomberg administration launched re-fashioNYC in 2011 as a city-sponsored program that offering free donation bins for residential complexes. Additionally, GrowNYC, a nonprofit, hosts daily collections throughout the city, while Wearable Collections, a for-profit operator, partners with GrowNYC. It services bins at greenmarkets and buildings.

The explosion of bin locations (referred to as a ‘bin-vasion’ in one article) has not been without controversy, however.

 Residents have a number of concerns, including rusty or poorly maintained bins, bins that overflow because of the infrequent pickup, and bins from for-profit companies masquerading as nonprofit, not to mention the illegal placement of bins on city sidewalks.

New York City does not permit the placement of donation bins on sidewalks and streets, notes the New York Times, however, they may be placed on private property with consent.

If discovered by Sanitation Department enforcement officers an illegal bin is tagged with the owner having 30 days to remove it. In the fiscal year 2014, the City tagged a staggering 2006 illegally positioned bins and confiscated 132 of them.

SpinGreen Focused on Relationship Building and Local Mission

Against this backdrop, SpinGreen entered the market, The Brooklyn-based company's mission was to help communities reuse, renew and recycle clothing, shoes, toys, and household goods. SpinGreen stood out for several reasons.

With respect to bin maintenance and community relations, SpinGreen focused on delivering a quality experience in terms of its bin service.

SpinGreen said its bins were bedbug-proof, rust-free and graffiti-proof, in addition to being equipped with GPS tracking and weight sensor system that prompted servicing before bins overflowed. Additionally, the company boasted a 24-hour hotline, seven days a week and also provided property owners with two million dollars in liability insurance related to the bin placement.

Another area of separation from other textile recycling operations was its willingness to take garments that may not be in wearable condition. While most bins specify usable grade garments only, SpinGreen welcomed more tattered textiles as well, helping to divert more material from landfills and providing a more convenient solution for residents.

For example, it suggested that stained t-shirts or torn towels could be converted into wipes.

The SpinGreen Process

The SpinGreen textile recycling process began with systematically positioned collection bins within residential buildings, schools, commercial complexes and other organizations. From the monitored 550 bins, the company collected 200,000 to 300,000 pounds of old and worn clothes every month.  They were processed in the company’s warehouse. About 10 percent of garments recovered were immediately reusable.

As of April 2016, SpinGreen appears to no longer be in business.

Keeping More Clothing Out of Landfills

Initiatives such as those undertaken by SpinGreen help keep more clothing out of landfills by lowering the bar with respect to what type of textiles are accepted for recycling, as well as in regard to being able to place and maintain bins in new locations through its positive relationship building process - both important points to consider in reducing textile waste.