CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Clothing donations to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island are on the decline in several communities, and the organization says for-profit textile recyclers may be to blame.
Simple Recycling, a for-profit company that picks up unwanted items like clothes, shoes, and towels, operates in Bristol, Coventry, Middletown and North Providence.
Katje Afonseca, the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters, said Simple Recycling’s curbside collections are threatening her organization’s bottom line.
“What we’ve noticed is a decline in some of our donations throughout the cities that are providing these services,” Afonseca said.
From January through September, clothing donations to the Big Brothers Big Sisters dropped in three of the four communities where Simple Recycling operates when compared to the same time last year. The total loss adds up to almost 8,500 pounds worth of clothing.
- Coventry: -8,141 pounds
- Bristol: -5,924 pounds
- Middletown: -362 pounds
- North Providence: +5,969 pounds
“It’s a slow and steady decline,” Afonseca said. “We’re not thinking that we need to change anything significant about the programming we provide to children in the state but we’re keeping our eye on it.”
Melissa Soares from Coventry’s Department of Public Works said it’s not a competition.
“We cannot stress enough, if you normally would donate to Big Brothers Big Sisters, please continue to do that,” Soares said. “We’re just trying to capture what would have gone in the trash.”
Soares said in the first five months of the town’s partnership with Simple Recycling, the company picked up more than 62,000 pounds of textiles, saving the Coventry about $1,500 in solid waste disposal fees. Simple Recycling also pays the town one cent per pound collected.
According to Simple Recycling, the average person throws away 68 pounds of clothing per year. Only about 15% of textiles are recycled, according to the EPA.