COVENTRY –– This spring Coventry is expected to join cities and towns throughout the state in an effort to cut back on solid waste and increase their recycling through Waste Zero and Simple Recycling’s curbside textile recycling program.

As part of the program, which comes at no cost to the town or taxpayers, residents will receive flyers accompanied by two pink plastic bags. The idea is that residents can fill these bags with unwanted textiles, things like clothing, bedspreads, handbags, hats and curtains, in order for them to be recycled.

The idea is that by putting the items out to the curb, residents are putting less into their trash. The town currently pays about $47 per ton to dispose of its waste with the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Center, so the reduction in solid waste will be beneficial to saving taxpayer money, according to Coventry Department of Public Works Director Kevin McGee.

Waste Zero Representative Savannah Harik gave the Coventry Town Council a presentation on the program Monday night, and all members were open to giving it a try, particularly because the program comes at no cost to the town.

“We help cities and towns save money by decreasing their trash and increasing their recycling,” said Harik.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Harik said, about 85 percent of textiles are thrown in the trash even though they are perfectly reusable and recyclable.

“Getting this material out of the waste stream is just one way that we can cut down on what’s going into our landfill, save money and improve the environment,” she said. “Clothing is actually one of the top five contaminates in single stream recycling.”

Harik said Waste Zero partnered with Simple Recycling to address this unique issue. It’s perfect for anyone looking to get rid of clothes that no longer fit, “the one shoe or sock you can never find a match for,” she explained.

The program is expected to begin in the spring, McGee said, and will start with all residents receiving mailers along with two pink plastic bags to fill and put out to the curb on the same day their regular recycling is picked up. A Simple Recycling truck who travels the different routes throughout town every day will follow existing recycling routes.

When the folks from Simple Recycling come to pick up the bags they leave more behind, attached to the homeowner’s recycling bins so they don’t blow away. More bags can be ordered by phone or online.

The program services 23,000 Rhode Islanders right now, and more than 4.5 million households nationwide.

“The program has absolutely no cost to the town or residents,” said Harik. “So the collection is free, the bags are free. There are never any processing fees. They’ll actually pay the town $20 per ton of the material that they collect. It’s not a huge amount of money, but it’s better than residents throwing it in the trash and contaminating the recycling.”

“The department of public works is currently paying $47 per ton for waste disposal,” said Kevin McGee. “So the more we are able to divert out of our waste stream is less we have to pay in our budget for solid waste and trash. By doing this, it’s just one more tool in our toolbox on working to reduce the overall cost of our waste disposal.”

McGee said he does not believe the program will have any adverse or negative effects on the operation of donation bins throughout town where residents can drop off unwanted clothing items.

“People who throw items in the bins will still do the same,” said McGee. “This is for the one to two items you’re not going to bring down to a box and it’s going to go in the trash.”

Other items Simple Recycling will accept in the bags include coats, jackets, jewelry, toys, pictures, mirrors, tools, silverware, dishes, pots and pans and glasses. The bulk of the material will become rags and insulation, and sometimes resold at thrift stores.

Councilors appeared to like the idea of the program and agreed to move forward in the spring (April to May) timeframe.

“Some people do save their clothes and donate them to the Salvation Army or Goodwill,” said Coventry Town Council President Kerry McGee. “I don’t think it’s going to have a big effect on that. I like the idea that there’s no cost to the town.”

“Coventry has a lot of blue collar employees,” said councilor Gary Cote. “I throw away a lot of clothing every year. Usually if I’m throwing it away it’s because nobody wants to wear it, including me.”

Harik said the company will collect textiles even if they’re totally stained or ripped and torn.

“If we approve this program I would like to see some kind of report from you in six months,” said councilor Ann Dickson. “On how well it’s going and whether you recommend we continue it or not because this is just one thing we’re asking our residents to put out to the curb, and I’m not sure how amenable they’re going to be about doing this.”

Follow Kendra Port on Twitter @kendrarport

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