New Illinois law makes recycling more convenient

Read the original story on State Journal-Register

As textile collection bins become more common throughout Illinois, it’s never been easier to recycle unwanted clothes and shoes.

That’s good news if for environmentally conscious consumers looking beyond the trash can for a convenient, no-cost approach to getting rid of an out-of-style shirt or those too-skinny jeans.

But the recent expansion of textile recycling has not been without issues. Some unscrupulous clothing collectors fail to properly maintain their bins, which leads to overflow and blight, while some others stand accused of falsely giving to charities.

The unfortunate truth is that not all collection bin companies operate under the same ethical and aesthetical standards, and regulations vary widely among communities. As a result, some municipalities have gone to the extreme by banning collection bins outright.

But the state of Illinois got it right by passing a new law that took effect Thursday that calls for the clear labeling of bins that the public uses to donate, resell or recycle unwanted clothes, shoes, books and other items.

According to the legislation, all bins in Illinois must clearly display the name, address and telephone number of the operating entity, which also must declare itself a for-profit or a not-for-profit organization or business.

In addition, the legislation enables local state’s attorneys to prosecute bad-apple operators across multiple municipal boundaries, eliminating the need for each and every community to enforce the law.

USAgain and the national trade association for the clothing recycling industry — the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association — support the new law, which had widespread bipartisan support and was signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn during the fall.

With Americans throwing 85 percent of their old and unwanted clothing in the trash, amounting to 11 million tons a year, clothing bins play an increasingly important role in keeping unwanted textiles out of landfills.

These are hardly burdensome guidelines. Still, the task of responsible collection and maintenance falls to the bin operators themselves, who now will have to comply with the new standards to ensure each community’s quality of life.

— Mattias Wallander is CEO of West Chicago-based USAgain, a for-profit company that collects unwanted textiles and resells them in the United States and abroad.

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