Time to Clothe Down

Donating your well-worn attire is a great way to de-clutter, but know where it's going before bidding farewell.

If you're a fashionista like me—hey, stifle that laughter—you may have a closet that's on the tail-end of its holding capacity. What's your default action when it's time to make room?

Those clothes have to go somewhere, and according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 85 percent of those unwanted wares are destined for the landfill. The textile industry is an energy-intensive one, and making the right end-of-lifecycle choices for defunct digs is critical to sustainability.

If you agree that our landfill fees (read: taxes) are too high, then reducing waste is imperative. Pledge to yourself that not a thread of apparel, footwear or bedding should meet its fate in the county dump. There are better alternatives that take minimal effort.

First, let's judge the quality of these castaway clothes. Could they be used by someone less fortunate? If you've already strolled through Hand-Me-Down Lane (siblings? nieces, nephews, grandkids?), then shoot for any of the numerous entities that collect such wearables.

One option that has entered (or some might say invaded) our local landscape are the ubiquitous parking lot bins that serve as clothing drop-offs. While many complain the boxes are eyesores, they're undeniably rerouting massive volumes of clothes away from the landfill and, presumably, to more needy recipients.

But do your homework before depositing. Two of the local bins have some questionable ownership issues. One, at the Gas Stop on Route 130 in Delran, is operated by the for-profit venture USAgain. Their website touts 8,000 bins nationwide and an impressive 2 million cubic yards of landfill space saved. All appears well, until you learn the company is embroiled in controversy.

Owned by a Belize-based holding company and run by Scandinavians, the corporation's efforts have been met with cynicism, spawning watchdog sites whose accusations include nothing less than money laundering, fraud and even cult status.

The bin has an area where a phone number belongs. That number's absent. Not exactly confidence-building.

Just a quarter-mile south in the Tenby Chase Plaza is another drop-off box. Constructed of plywood and resembling a dumpster, its signage is peeling, but at least it features a phone number—a number that is not in service.

If your suspicions are raised at the prospect of fly-by-night operators, there are other local organizations of less spurious origin.

Goodwill Industries operates a collection center on Route 73 in Maple Shade, which accepts lightly used clothing and footwear. The Salvation Army has similar facilities in Philadelphia, but you can schedule a pickup at your residence.

Other established organizations happy to find a new home for your threads include Purple Heart and the Vietnam Veterans of America, each of which are 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, meaning donations are tax-deductible.

And when the fabric is thread-bare and not worthy of re-use, it's time to get creative. Check out this list of 37 ideas for how to repurpose those old socks, belts, shirts and jeans.

With a little work, your closet will breathe again. But be sure not to fall into the same trap. Make your wardrobe last. Just because designers release a new season of fresh designs doesn't mean you need to entirely flip your fashions. We can't all be fashion gurus like myself. Again with the laughter?

Rebecca Abrams May 03, 2011 at 01:34 PM
Once Upon A Child in Maple Shade is a children's consignment store that accepts clothing in good condition. It's a great store to check out, they pay you cash on the spot.
JMBB May 03, 2011 at 01:45 PM
I stopped giving to the boxes in parking lots when they were always full and I couldn't fit my things in them. So, I give to the Vietnam Vets (they just picked up 4 bags of clothes from me yesterday) They even take small furniture pieces. So easy to set up on line. & I know where it's going ;)
Christina Paciolla May 03, 2011 at 02:17 PM
I was just driving around last week looking for one of those bins, but now I know to call Vietnam Vets or Purple Heart to come pick them up.
Liz May 03, 2011 at 02:21 PM
www.bbbsfoundation.org Big Brother Big Sister Foundation will also pick up at your door step.
Committeeman Anthony Minniti May 03, 2011 at 02:32 PM
A very informative article...the majority of these bins are placed by "fly by night" organizations that purport to donate to organizations like youth sports, police, or veterans. In reality, they had no connection to these groups and the donations were either shredded and shipped as rags to third world nations or dumped in a landfill. The lesson? Don't fall for what they claim on the bin. Great job reporting the legitimate organizations that do see these donations go to the needy. As part of Cinnaminson's Route 130 Corridor project, we placed very strict regulations on the placement of these bins including verification of their corporate tax status. The result has been the elimination of the most significant source of litter and blight along our corridor. Cinnaminson was the first town in the state to regulate clothing donation bins, and our ordinance became the example used by the state when they developed their regulations.


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