Elgin renewing contract for curbside recycling of textiles, home goods
The city of Elgin plans to renew its contract for curbside recycling of textiles and home goods, which in the last 2½ years amounted to more than 500,000 pounds of material that might otherwise have gone to landfills.
"I love the program," Councilman Toby Shaw said Wednesday, when the council's committee of the whole voted unanimously for the three-year renewal to be finalized next week. "It's innovative, it's unique and it's totally convenient."
According to a recent city survey, 62.2% of 606 respondents were very or somewhat satisfied with the services of Simple Recycling, based in Ohio.
Elgin Communications Manager Molly Gillespie said there were some complaints about missed pickups in early 2018. The company made staffing changes and things have been running smoothly since, she said.
However, about 25% of survey respondents said they have never used the service, many because they didn't know about it. The city will begin giving Simple Recycling quarterly reports with addresses -- based on water bills and transfer stamps -- of new residents, who in turn will get informational material from the company, which provides free orange bags, Gillespie said.
Simple Recycling serves households that get refuse pickup from Waste Management, typically single-family homes, townhouses and buildings with up to five units, Gillespie said. The city gets one penny per pound from the company, so less than $6,000 to date.
Residents also can bring clothes, shoes and textiles for recycling at Kane County drop-off locations in Batavia and West Dundee.
Elgin was the first town in Illinois to contract with Simple Recycling, which now serves Mount Prospect, Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates, Hanover Park, Villa Park and South Barrington and recently struck a deal with Barrington. The company started in 2013, covers about 250 towns in nine states, and employs about 20 people in the Chicago area with offices in Chicago and Blue Island, said Sonny Wilkins, vice president of municipal relations.
"We were the first ones to come out with recycling used clothing and shoes at your curb on recycling day. We did that because, even though you have all these different mechanisms or options to donate textile materials, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, most of it is not recycled, only 15%."
The key is to make recycling as easy as possible, Wilkins said. "We follow the curbside schedule that already exists with our municipal partners. It's very important that the resident is not doing anything different that they are already doing."
So where does the material go? Simply Recycling partners with thrift stores that get first dibs and typically keep 10% to 20% of materials, Wilkins said. The rest is recycled for industrial and manufacturing uses or goes to exporters -- who also take items from Salvation Army, Goodwill and others -- that ship material for sale abroad, he said.
Collections in Elgin dropped from 68,913 pounds in July 2017, when the service started, to 6,274 pounds in December. "That's a good thing, that meant people are getting their closets cleaned out," Mayor David Kaptain said.
Recycling is about economies of scale and Elgin is performing well enough that Simple Recycling wanted to sign another agreement, Wilkins said. The city did put out a request for proposals for textile recycling and Simple Recycling was the only respondent, she said.
Simple Recycling said it has agreements pending with "several communities" in the area but declined to say which towns.