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Company pays towns for used textiles

Swatches | July 1, 2022 | By:

A mountain of discarded clothing at the Park Ave. Armory in New York. Photo: Carolina A. Miranda

The town of Bow, N.H., will soon join 17 other communities in the Northeast, in a program that pays the town to let a company pick up used clothing, textiles and shoes at people’s homes so they can be reused rather than trashed.

“It almost sounds too good to be true, but it’s great,” said Denise Cummings, crew chief at Hooksett Recycling and Transfer Center, which started the program with Woburn, Mass.-based Helpsy this spring.

Helpsy pays communities $40 a ton for clothing collected by its employees in curbside pickup as well as in drop-off boxes. The income for communities isn’t big but every bit helps.

The company will accept a wide variety of goods, from shirts and shoes to handbags and belts, sheets and towels, and pet clothing. Items can be in any condition but must be clean and dry.

The company says 95% of what it collects is reused, upcycled or recycled. Items are sorted and divided into grades. The higher grades are resold to thrift stores in North America and other second-hand markets around the world. The lower grades get turned into rags for industrial use or things like stuffing and insulation. Helpsy is a privately funded, for-profit company started in 2017. It is a registered B Corporation, a type of structure that carries environmental and social goals along with financial ones, and has about 280 employees.

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