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Bostonians no longer have to throw out those worn out towels and sneakers with holes in them

The city today announced it's installed dropboxes across the city where residents can recycle old clothes and footwear, as part of an effort to reduce what gets tossed into landfills or burned in incinerators.

The Public Works program, building on an idea first proposed by Councilor Matt O'Malley, is being run with Helpsy, a company that specializes in textile recycling:

Once sorted and graded, 95 percent of textiles collected are reused, upcycled, or recycled, 75 percent being reused, and 20 percent being recycled. 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 alternative functions like stuffing or insulation.

In addition to clothes, footwear and towels, residents can also recycle stuffed animals and bedding. They have to be dry and in a plastic bag.

Locations:

  • 398 Market St., Brighton
  • 191 Adams St., Dorchester
  • 20 Georgia St., Dorchester
  • 575 Washington St., Dorchester
  • 166 London St., East Boston
  • 37 Winthrop St., Hyde Park
  • 490 Centre St., Jamaica Plain
  • 450 West Broadway, South Boston
  • 10 Taft Hill Terrace, Roslindale
  • 39-41 Corey St., West Roxbury
Neighborhoods: 

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Comments

Seems like people end up throwing all kinds of junk into those boxes like old rugs and drop cloths and blankets that the dog pooped on. The other thing I wonder is how much of this stuff do people really throw in the trash now? Don't people mostly put their old clothes in the existing boxes already?

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Hopefully people who have been donating soiled/torn textiles in existing boxes because they feel bad just trashing them will now use this as an appropriate option.

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Thanks for noticing our new clothing collection boxes! We'd love to answer your questions about them and us; hit us at [email protected]. You can find a bin at http://www.helpsy.co/find-a-bin
Helpsy is a Certified B Corp, meaning we're a for-profit company legally obligated to also prioritize our mission of keeping clothes out of the trash and of creating jobs and honorable wages.
Our partnership with the City of Boston creates extremely demanding but well-paying jobs, and we're hiring in Medford right now.
Please keep in mind that everything you put in our bins gets touched by and potentially benefits many people.
First, we pay our bin hosts, including more than 100 Boston and New Hampshire schools and charities, for every bag we collect. That added up to more than $200,000 over the past 12 months, and is in addition to waste disposal fees our host communities avoid and the money we pay our landlord and our local vendors.
Second, our drivers touch (and are paid for) every bag. There are good and bad people in the world, and fortunately we don't get much poo. Please only give us dry clothes and shoes, and securely tie them in waterproof bags.
Third, our warehouse crew disposes of wet clothes and other trash and then packages the bags for shipment. Right now we sell everything wholesale and primarily to sorting companies in the USA, so in addition to our hiring your clothes support another 20 American jobs. We're looking to bring those jobs to Boston over the coming year.
Next, our customers' customers display the sorted clothes in their stores, which in our case are in North and South America; this process creates an even greater number of jobs.
Finally, retail shoppers are given a choice of better and cheaper clothes. These clothes displace Chinese imports, not some fictional local industry. By doing so, the clothes you contribute fight climate change by reducing the overproduction of new clothes. On average, every pound of usable clothes you drop in our boxes will prevent more than 30 pounds of CO2 emissions net of our collection activities.
Only 15% of Americans' clothes end up in clothing boxes or thrift stores. If that number was 100%, we'd keep another 30 billion pounds of clothes out of the trash, create another half-million jobs in collection and sorting, and meaningfully reduce the emissions for which we as consumers are responsible.
Thanks for asking about our program. If you want to host a bin or a clothing drive, want to work for us, or see a mess at a bin, please email [email protected]. We run 24/7 and will respond as soon as possible. Oh, and if you're not already buying used at our partners Boomerangs, Global Thrift, Sister Thrift, Wonderland, or OUTfitters, get out there and support your community!

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Does helpsy accept fabric scraps that are not clothing/bedding? I am a quilter/sewist and end up creating a moderate amount of textile-related waste through my hobby, however, most organizations that accept textiles really mean clothing, bedding, ie reusable items. I have had bags of scraps that are a few inches in size and not been able to get someone to take them. If Helpsy accepts that would be great!

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If you take walks every trash pickup day,or walk the neighborhoods as I do daily with my dog , you will see how many people not only recycle in an ineffectual manner, but throw away enormous amounts of perfectly wearable clothing and shoes, blankets etc,etc.... i would estimate that more than half of the homes throw it in the trash rather than call one of the organizations that pick up donations. This doesn’t include all the huge piles on trash day of entire contents of apartments or houses where people have moved.
I have been “rescuing “ bags of clothing and other textiles for years. I either carry it home or go back with the car for it. I then sort it and donate it appropriately The donation boxes around Boston are a dream come true! A

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This just makes me itch...

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Thrift stores are making it difficult/impossible to donate now.

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They are.

Not sure why. It doesn't live on clothes very long.

If TJX can put returns on a shelf for 72 hours and re-sell them and not have any issue. Not sure why not thrift stores.

Goodwill literally has no excuse. Make donations all go to their Main Store on Melina Cass. They usually have a tractor trailer sitting there and a guy willing to take your donations. Its outdoors and its fast. The stuff can sit there for weeks.

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If TJX can put returns on a shelf for 72 hours and re-sell them and not have any issue. Not sure why not thrift stores.

Apples and oranges. Returns to TJX have been worn once at most. Donations to Goodwill have probalby been worn for years. And although one would think otherwise, many people likely don't wash clothes they're about to donate.

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Covid is my point

WHat you describe happened also in pre-covid.

No reason for them to stop at all, if the issue was people catching covid.

However, an afterthought may be about the workers at Goodwill. Goodwill does provide jobs for people who would fall into the 'at risk' category for COVID infections. Making them stay home may be a reason to reduce donations due to staff shortages.

Even still....

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Thanks for the clarification.

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Not all clothes are donateable such as those that have holes, tears, or are stained/ruined. These textiles can still be recycled though.

Keep in mind ALL H&M locations also accept textiles for recycling in basically any condition though it is likely shut down for the pandemic at the moment.

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Get ye to the drugstore. A200 or Quell will fix ya up.

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While this effort to recycle our trash is all fine and good, altruistic in nature perhaps, let's not lose sight on the fact that Helpsy is a for-profit company that benefits directly from selling a percentage (how much?) of these donated/recycled garments in those "second hand markets around the world." namely in African countries where these cheap/used/discarded items undercut local producers and contribute directly to you know, what gets tossed into the landfills of those countries that haven't yet curbed the importation of used clothing.

Basically we're using a company to dump our garbage elsewhere with the side-effect of disrupting their local economy and charging them for the privilege of burying our trash on their land. 21st century entrepreneurs discover 19th century colonialism and all that.

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The #1 problem with recycling is that it's unprofitable to do which is why so much goes to the dump instead. You want it to be profitable, so consumers don't have to pay for it and so that companies want to do it themselves.

It is a win-win-win and the "destroy local economy" claim is hardly something you can say with certainty. Yes, there is some impact I am sure, but have you considered that perhaps the locals living in those economies might have a preference for cheap access to our trendy recycled clothes? That maybe their economy can sustain both things?

You can't predict the downstream effects so easily like you are trying to.

Some of this gets turned into filling, some gets to downstream sales, and yes some probably ultimately gets dumped.

But it's still a big win for the environment to re-use material, mostly good for the industries who need material (including I'm sure many in those African countries), and people who are choosing to buy this who would not have access to this fashion across the planet. Making a buck doesn't inherently make it worse somehow -- it primarily means its being handled fairly efficiently.

Especially given the high rates of re-use and recycling among clothes, unlike say plastic that was getting dumped in SE Asia for years… which is something to at least consider actually taxing given the likelihood of us sending it there and it going into the ocean, and the existence of faster-degrading plastics now that at least companies are starting to switch over to.

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Planet Aid is the same way.

I often say somewhere in Africa there's a buncha kids all wear "Cuffys of Cape Cod" Provincetown T shirts because of a huge bag of t-shirts I threw into the bin a few years.

And yeah they do rate clothes and go thru them. They all do. Its to make sure you aren't selling stuff with missing buttons or stains or clothes that should have stayed in the 1970s.

But I second the the point about recycling isn't profitable. It really isn't. I manage electronics recycling at work to dispose of old tech gear. Clothes are useless and have no value. But electronics have value.

If i take the circuit boards *to* a recycling place, I'll get $$$. but to have a company take it away it costs me $$$

Why it costs manpower + a truck to come get it. And to process it.

If I take it to a recycler for cash, I have to take it apart and separate. For example, I would have to take the motherboard out of a computer so the case can be metal recycled and the circuit board would be sent off to have valuable metals removed (i.e. gold).

But if I have someone come and get it, I throw the case or monitor in and be done with it. I'm more paying for a service than anything.

As much as it saves the planet, there's no $ in recycling, it has to be profitable for people to do it.

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I met a man in Zanzibar wearing a Dunkin' Donuts polo.
I know that sounds like a setup to a joke, but seriously, I did.

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Those look like factory seconds. If they do a run of shirts and the color is off, or there's a mistake in the stitching, or if the screen print didnt come out just right.

The shirt is OK as a shirt to wear if you don't care that its a second.

Manufacturers and stores take that overstock (or over printing) they cannot sell or just will not sell and donate it.

I have a friend who's on the board of a homeless outreach center in a major city not near here. My friend has a home on the cape and is friendly with the owners of some t-shirt shops down there. At the end of the season he took a truck load of bags of clothing that did not sell or were defects/returns back to the center. The store got the write off (or loss), and the homeless benefited.

Of course much of it is Cape Cod theme'd clothing. So all winter long many homeless in a landlocked city far away all looked like they went on vacation to cape cod because of all the clothing that were donated.

Its funny to think that and its a good thing because the clothing went to a good cause.(and I am told the truck load happens yearly and has gotten bigger!)

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It is Patriots Super Bowl winners when they lost to Giants. They make shirts in advance and dump third world as needed: 19-0!

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Thats what I thought but wasn't 100% sure

It still is a 'second'.. something they cannot sell in the store :-)

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Sigh...
Those 19-0 Perfect season Patriots shirts are just a reminder of what should've been.
But, having that Eli Manning got out of what should've been two sacks and still managing to get the toss off - and then to be caught on top of the receiver's helmet - the Giants deserved the win.
Still... If any team could go 19-0, it would've been the Pats.

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Photoshop is a wonderful thing.

I can tell you for certain that the only pre-made shirts by the bigger companies (i.e.: Nike, Adidas) are for the locker room. At least this is true from early 2000's. The printing shops bring their teams in at half-time (if football or basketball), or the 7th inning, or after the 2nd period to warm up the machines. A Nike or Adidas rep is there with the hologram stickers and at some point when the score is definitely leaning one way or another the call is made to begin production. The last time pre-made shirts were in the Boston area, some Red Sox shirts were in the basement of a Chinatown building. I don't remember the year that was on them because my guy didn't print those shirts but he saw them in the mid to late 90's. He didn't sneak one out due to the possibility of losing future work.

I can also tell you that the rep and the production staff sat around a radio listening to the end of this game (apparently no TVs in the shop at that time) and ultimately had to shut all the equipment down upon the loss. They hadn't been hired to print the other team's winning gear.

I know all this because I would lose my guy for a couple of days when our teams did win and the shop he worked for won the bids to print the championship shirts. All while staying on top of day to day production.

Note this is true of sanctioned shirts - not the knockoffs.

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Or at least severely restrict. I think they can't take more.

I take everything to Goodwill because 80% of what they take gets recycled as furniture stuffing or blankets (although I read recently that recycled wool blankets cost more to make than new ones from China).

And I am not sure what part of the local economy competes against some business like this that will take clothes of any quality.

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Like a lot of others, Goodwill has issues. In particular, I find the way they treat disabled workers appalling.

In many areas there are local organizations that serve all people. Google "survival center" or something like that to find what's available near you.

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I hadn’t heard about getting money for electronics donations. Every time I looked into it, I found organizations that only wanted working computers less than 3 years old.

Where do you do this?

It would be easy for a community-minded person to get a bunch of friends to collect their old electronics until they had a full carload, which would make the transport costs more efficient.

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Not doubting you personally just baseline skeptical

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I did some reading up before posting so thank you for asking for citations. As someone’s who has traveled more than most I’ll say that folks in developing nations are just as proud as us when it comes to dressing and how one is perceived by their peers based on their ability to both purchase items of quality and wear them in the correct context. Yes it’s hilarious to see a kid wearing a Patriots Super Bowl XLII champions tshirt in Nicaragua but the whole village knows he’s broke and it was all his parents could afford to buy. Those folks are stupid and it’s past the time to be pretending that a startup is doing them a favor when it’s drenched in post-colonial paternalism.

http://sternoppy.com/2018/11/developing-countries-dont-want-your-clothes/

https://discussion.theguardian.com/comment-permalink/47509657

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/12/world/africa/east-africa-rwanda-used-...

https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/global-markets/africa-vs-the-...

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...here's an article (with links) that should assuage your skepticism.

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I find this hard to believe given the reality of the recycling environment.

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They are pretty common in Cambridge, Somerville, and suburbs further out, often in front of school buildings.

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Some schools have run clothing drives, but this is a more permanent thing.

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There's one on Talbot Ave/Millet St that has been there foreverrrrr (I donated things when I moved from home) and on Warren St, a few in Hyde Park near my mom's house. I have saw these around before in the city. Mostly near schools. This post threw me off too because I know I've seen them. Maybe they only were in more "poor" areas and now they added some in more visible parts of the city.

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That’s a Planet Aid box. That organization is, umm, controversial. Google them.

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While the city does take #5 plastics, if you want to be very, very sure these plastics are getting recycled as opposed to say, just getting put on a mixed plastic barge and sent to the developing world, try the Gimme 5 program with Preserve. Yes, you have to pay for your own shipping but at least you can have peace of mind. When I lived places that had no recycling (Alabama) or burned everything for fuel (Iowa), our household could at least do something.
https://www.preserve.eco/pages/how-to-recycle

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unless you consider donating to Goodwill old.

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These boxes will need to be emptied regularly. There has been an ongoing issue with the Red Cross donation boxes behind the Back Bay station. They were not being emptied regularly during the pandemic and homeless people were breaking into them and picking through stuff and leaving a mess. Hopefully, they have considered this and have put in place a frequent collection schedule.

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I'm sure that's annoying for the people picking them up, but homeless people being able to find clothes to wear out of these things sounds like it's just cutting out the middleman here.

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Not if they make a mess and ruin most of the donations.

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The Red Cross Bins at the Back Bay Train Station attracts all kinds of crime. The homeless have vandalized the hinges of one container and they jump into the bins, congregate for hours at the bins, become aggressive and cause all kinds of disturbances in the daytime and in the middle of the night. The owner of the bins Windward trading, a second hand clothing company, has an agreement to empty these bins daily, but they are not emptied out regularly. If Windward and the Back Bay management want to give out donations, then it should be done in an organized way, so that it does not cause neighborhood disturbances and crime. There have been a lot of complaints and requests to have the Red Cross bins at the Back Bay Train Station removed, as it has become dangerous in that area. We can not even enjoy the green space at the train station and this is from the City of Boston Code Enforcement https://bit.ly/3kEdM8N.

So what is the incentive in having these containers at the Back Bay Train Station?

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I have seen them empty it before when I walk to work from Back Bay Station. I don't know the schedule though.

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