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Clothes recycling increasingly going curbside

| Sunday, April 21, 2013, 8:21 p.m.

Clothes recycling is catching on in more towns as global prices rise for the used apparel, shoes and linens that Americans often toss in the trash.

Since September, more than a dozen local governments — in Arizona, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington state — have begun curbside pickup of textiles, often in special bags next to bins containing paper and cans. New York City has put clothing collection bins in nearly 250 apartment buildings in the past two years.

Businesses, too, are placing collection bins in parking lots and gas stations. In the last year, The North Face, H&M and other retailers have begun using in-store bins to offer customers store vouchers for donating clothes — whatever the brand, and sometimes, whatever the condition.

As America celebrates Earth Day on Monday, the nation's robust recycling industry is increasingly targeting clothes — even those that are stained, ripped, mismatched or out-of-fashion. Companies and nonprofit groups are partnering with cities eager to reduce landfill costs.

“It's a trend more cities are considering.” says Tom Watson, a recycling official in Washington state's King County, where the Seattle suburb of Issaquah has teamed with waste collector CleanScapes for curbside pickups.

Salvation Army began partnering this year with Massachusetts' Brockton and Worcester to pick up clothes curbside. Community Recycling, a for-profit that sells clothes for reuse, started pickups in October in Pennsylvania's Newtown, in Bucks County, and a dozen neighboring communities and will do the same next month in Westville, N.J.

“Anything that is clean and dry can be reused or recycled,” says Jackie King, executive director of Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association, an industry group.

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