Last July, I wrote about New York City’s grand plan to install textile-only recycling bins in highly trafficked areas of the city as part of an unprecedented effort to make it easier for harried New York Yorkers to dispose of last season's sweaters, old bedding and stained-beyond-repair bath towels. Essentially, the bins would serve as a more convenient alternative to hauling bags of linen closet rejects and sartorial castoffs to charity shops and GrowNYC drop-off locations. The city was to secure a nonprofit collection partner — Goodwill Industries was one organization mentioned to be in the running for a 10-year contract — that would be responsible for handling the recycled items and everything was supposed to be up and running by September 2010.

After a delay of a few months, NYC’s textile recycling program was officially launched last week — better late than never! — and now has a name: re-fashioNYC.

The program, the largest textile recycling initiative in the country, now also has an official collection partner in the form of Housing Works, a nonprofit that strives to provide shelter and security to low-income and homeless New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS.

I donate most of my old clothing to Housing Works Thrift Stores anyway, so the city’s choice in collection partners works out just fine for me. Bonus points: Housing Works is active on the green building front. The organization’s major endeavor is the completion of the eco-friendly 874 Jefferson Avenue Residence Project in Brooklyn. Housing Works’ big annual benefit, Design of a Dime, took place earlier this month and brought out the stars — and by stars, I mean "Real Housewives" — to raise funds for the project.

But I digress. The re-fashioNYC program works a bit like this: If interested, the landlord, superintendent or building manager of an apartment building with more than 10 units can sign up online for a re-fashioNYC textile recycling bin to be placed in the lobby or directly outside of said apartment building. You can’t get more convenient than that.

The re-fashionNYC bins are installed at no cost to the building’s owner, tenants or taxpayers and the bins are emptied, when full, by Housing Works. An on-site employee such as a doorman, super, or custodian monitors the bin and schedules the collection. Apartment buildings in all five boroughs are eligible.

The ultimate goal of the program, which was unveiled at a 48-unit supportive housing complex in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, is pretty much the same as it was when I first wrote about it last summer: to divert the 200,000 tons of textiles New Yorkers throw away each year from landfills and give them some sort of second life.

Remarks David Bragdon, director of PlaNYC, the Bloomberg administration’s ambitious “green masterplan:”

This partnership will help us achieve our PlaNYC goal of diverting 75 percent of our solid waste from landfills. By making it easier for New Yorkers to donate or reuse their clothes, and saving taxpayers the high expense of long-distance transportation and waste disposal, we are achieving our vision of a greener, greater New York.

So what exactly happens to the donated materials collected at re-fashioNYC bins?

Your donations will be picked up and transported to Housing Works’ warehouse in Queens for sorting. Some donations will be sold in Housing Works’ shops throughout NYC or at one of their regular 'all-you-can-stuff' warehouse sales. Some leftovers from these sales will be shipped to another nonprofit thrift shop in Haiti, while others will be made available to different nonprofit thrift shops for sale in their stores. The rest will be sold to a used textile merchant for recycling or export to overseas markets. In all cases, the profits generated from the sale of your donations will benefit low-income and homeless New Yorkers living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

This all sounds totally agreeable, but my one reservation is this: re-fashionNYC is super-convenient for those living in participating apartment buildings but for everyone else? Not so much.

From what I understand, initially the program envisioned bins to be placed in highly trafficked public areas throughout the city and not in or around private residential buildings. Personally, I’d be hesitant to wander into the lobby of a strange apartment building to drop off a sack of old shoes and bath towels. Would I be able to even access the bin at all or would I be shooed away by a doorman?

Gripes aside, I’m happy to see the program finally up and running with such a fantastic collection partner. Read more about re-fashioNYC here.

Via [New York Times]

Recycling bin photo: re-fashionNYC via NYT

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