A new recycling initiative will produce sprouts of a different type this spring in several Lake County communities.
Beginning next month, polished white collection boxes, 7-feet tall and 4-feet square will be placed at municipal and other facilities in more than a dozen locations as part of a new program to keep clothing, shoes and other textiles out of landfills.
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Despite resale shops, thrift stores and other types of drop boxes, 85 percent of all textile waste -- an average of about 70 pounds per person each year -- goes to landfills, according to the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County.
"We think there's more than enough textiles to go around," said Walter Willis, executive director. Fifteen of SWALCO's municipal members are on board, with more expected as the program progresses.
Besides the recycling aspect there is a financial incentive. That became a necessity when the longtime sponsor of the Reuse-A-Shoe program, now in its 10th year, dropped out, Willis said.
"We're always looking for ways to generate revenue," he said. Budgeted revenue is $15,000 but the final number could be double that or more, he added. Each box is expected to generate about 900 pounds of materials each month.
Under a two-year contract with Chicago Textile Recycling, SWALCO will get 18 cents per pound for clothing and 67 cents per pound for shoes. A third of that will go to the host community, according to Willis.
Grayslake is scheduled to be the first operating location. A bin will be placed at the recycling center at the village's public works building, 585 Berry Ave., which is the public drop off for electronics, newspaper, glass and other recyclables.
"Since we have the room at the center, we figured we'd give (the public) more opportunity to recycle more items," said Kevin Timony, assistant to the village manager.
In Wauconda, the bin will be next to the electronics collection area at the village public works department, 302 Slocum Lake Road.
"We signed on immediately," said Trustee Chuck Black, the village's SWALCO representative. The intent is to give everyone "every opportunity they can to recycle or reduce," he added.
Textiles include most items of clothing, blankets, sheets and other bedding, as well as towels, purses and handbags, for example.
"We'll take ties and jeans and scarfs and coats and all that stuff," Willis said.
All sizes, types and brands of paired shoes also will be accepted in the bins. Officials would prefer to collect shoes through a separate, ongoing program.
"These are the Cadillac of bins. They're very attractive, they're very sturdy," said Merleanne Rampale, public information officer and education director for SWALCO, who originated the idea.
"It just seemed like a natural," she said. "I was also looking at (Lake County's) 60 percent recycling goals and knew curbside wouldn't be enough."
Collected materials not suitable to be reused will go to the rag industry, Willis said.
"Obviously, with 85 percent of the clothing and textiles ending up in the landfill, there's plenty of opportunity," Rampale said. "We want to make a dent in those other efforts. It gives people another choice."