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Local nonprofits: City's new textile recycling program hurts donations

Posted at 11:38 PM, Apr 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-01 00:15:51-04

CINCINNATI -- Local nonprofits say a new city recycling program is costing them thousands of donations. 

Cincinnati launched a partnership with Solon-based Simple Recycling in March; the initiative allows Cincinnati residents to place bags filled with “soft recyclables” at the curb next to their green recycling carts on their regular bi weekly recycling day.

The city expects to save $70,000 a year with the new recycling program. But local nonprofits -- like the Salvation Army, Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul -- are concerned the program will impact donations. Non-profit leaders will voice their concerns to city officials Monday. 

The Salvation Army says the program has cost them about 6,000 donated items a day. 

“Our concern is this cutting into our life blood for our drug and rehab program,” said Larry Ashcraft from the Salvation Army.

But Adam Winfield from Simple Recycling says the initiative aims to save the environment -- and taxpayer dollars. More than 3,000 people participated in the program in its first month, the company said. 

“We want residents to continue to donate to charitable organizations, but a solution needs to be provided for the significant waste problem that's the highest and fastest growing category in the residential waste stream,” Winfield said.

According to the contract, Simple Recycling will accept “soft recyclables,” which includes "men’s, women’s and children’s clothing as well as items such as shoes, purses, hats, toys, pictures, mirrors, blankets, drapes and curtains, pillows, rags, sewing scraps, sleeping bags, jewelry, small furniture, small appliances, irons, radios and audio equipment, TVs and video equipment, cameras, lamps, hairdryers, tools, toasters, microwaves, coffee makers, computers and household or consumer electronics, silverware, dishes, pots and pans, glasses and the like."

The company says 9 percent of Cincinnati’s residential waste is clothes or home goods.

“The fact is we have had a real problem with too many things that might be usable by charities ending up in our landfill, and it's costing us money,” said Vice Mayor David Mann.

Right now Simple Recycling takes clothes to thrift stores in northeast Ohio, and local nonprofits say that money should be kept in the city. Simple Recycling told WCPO the company plans to partner with local thrift stores in the near future, but they are not sure which thrift stores they would work with. 

“You sell a shirt for a buck. That could be $6,000 a day and multiply that by 350 days or whatever our thrift stores are open and figure it out,” Ashcraft said.

Mann said officials will consider how the program impacts non-profit organizations.

“The question is are we injuring nonprofits that do good work in our community or not,” Mann said.