Curbside Textile Recycling Program is First in U.S.

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Phoenix Fibers is a closed-loop recycling company that converts textiles into environmentally-friendly home insulation. Photo: Phoenix Fibers

Giving new life to old textiles just got a whole lot easier for some Arizona residents.

Beginning this month, the town of Queen Creek, Ariz. will pair up with United Fibers to expand their curbside recycling service to include the collection of items like towels, clothing, blankets, sheets and shoes. Residents can recycle their textiles by simply putting them inside a special bag to be placed in their curbside recycling bins.

“We’re the first municipality in the country to do curbside textile recycling,” said Ramona Simpson, project administrator for Queen Creek’s trash and recycling department.

During the four-month pilot program, the textiles collected will be sorted, weighed and processed by United Fibers, then turned into eco-friendly home insulation by sister company Phoenix Fibers.

“What’s cool is that people can actually see the end product,” Simpson said. “You can actually see [the insulation] being made right here in Arizona.”

The textiles must be free of contaminants, but that’s really the only qualifier – no towel is too ratty and no clothing too old to donate.

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About 7,000 residents will have the opportunity to participate in the program and Simpson said they are looking to divert as many textiles from the trash as possible.

“We don’t really have goals other than hoping that we’ll have good participation,” Simpson said. “Because we are a pilot program, it’s hard to say what will be successful enough for United Fibers to continue with the project.”

The program will bring in revenue for the town too with Queen Creek receiving 10 cents for every pound collected. The program will donate another 10 cents for every ton collected to the Boys and Girls Club of Queen Creek.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 13.1 million tons of textiles were thrown away in 2010. Simpson would like the program to serve as a motivator for its residents.

“We’re hoping to raise awareness,” she said. “To help people realize know what can happen if they just do one little thing.”

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