Curbside pickup of used clothing is coming & towns will be paid for it

Monitor staff
Published: 5/20/2022 3:10:14 PM

The town of Bow will soon join 17 other communities, including four in New Hampshire, 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 – if the 390 pounds collected in March is any guide, Hooksett will profit by just a few hundred dollars this year, including saving $77 for every ton of clothing that it doesn’t have to send to a landfill – but every bit helps.

“They’re very good,” Cummings said of Helpsy. She noted that when the company left its drop-off box at

the transfer station they didn’t object to Hooksett keeping the collection box for the Epilepsy Foundation of American. “People can decide which they want to use.”

Pickup began in Bow on May 15 and happens every Sunday – a day chosen to not conflict with other trash and recycling pickup.

Anybody in participating towns, which currently includes Pembroke and soon will include Manchester, can sign up for a free home pickup at helpsy.co or by calling 877-382-7417.

The company will accept a wide variety of goods, from shirts and shoes to handbags and belts, sheets and towels, and pet clothing: “Anything you can wear, sleep in, or dry yourself off with” is how the website describes it. Items can be in any condition but must be clean and dry.

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.

“We have three goals: make a profit, provide good jobs, keep clothes out of the trash,” said Dan Green, CEO and co-founder. “Even if the profitability is marginal, if it fits our mission we’ll do it.”

Collecting clothes for resale or donation has long been done by churches, charities and nonprofits like Goodwill Industries but usually requires donors to bring material to a collection point. Helpsy’s curbside pickup at any home that asks for it is very unusual.

“The old business model, collecting clothes in bulk and sold by the pound, wouldn’t work. The cost of collection is too high. The new model that we’ve been working on for the last 18 months or so is to sell the clothes online,” Green said. That’s possible partly, he said, because “the clothes that we get from people’s houses tend to be cleaner, have more value than the clothing we get from our clothing bins.”

Helpsy sells through other online platforms.

Green said the model works partly because the truck drivers, who are paid hourly wages as well as per-pound for collections, are used in all parts of the “three-pronged collection – clothing drives, bins, home pickup.”

Textiles, including clothing, are a big part of the nation’s waste stream. The federal EPA estimates that 11 million tons of textiles were put into landfills in 2018, or more than 7% of all items put in dumps that year. Another 3 million tons was burned to produce electricity.

Only about 15 percent of discarded textiles are recycled, either for reuse or turned into usable items like rags or packing blankets. Green said that percentage hasn’t changed in many years, even as the amount of clothing and textiles that Americans buy and discard has grown.

“It’s kind of shocking,” said Green.

The company estimates that they can collect 100 pounds per person in used textiles and clothing each year, “in addition to what already goes to thrift stores and bins.” “We have towns where, through bins alone, we collect 20 pounds per resident per year,” Green said.


David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of the monthly Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.



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