Huntington Woods to pilot new recycling program for clothing, household items

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published August 13, 2014

 Larry Bastien, driver for Simple Recycling, stands next to a company truck which he uses to drive around to participating cities and pick up clothes and reusable household items to recycle. The program will have a pilot run in Huntington Woods beginning in the fall.

Larry Bastien, driver for Simple Recycling, stands next to a company truck which he uses to drive around to participating cities and pick up clothes and reusable household items to recycle. The program will have a pilot run in Huntington Woods beginning in the fall.

Photo submitted by Adam Winfield

HUNTINGTON WOODS — The Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority, which consists of twelve Oakland County cities, had already helped reduce on waste with its wide-range recycling program.

However, by teaming with a new start-up program based out of Ohio, SOCRRA and a few pilot cities are hoping to reduce what goes to the landfill even more.

Simple Recycling was started in Solon, Ohio, this year with the goal of recycling clothes and other useful household items that someone may otherwise throw away. With a local facility in West Branch, a few Michigan cities have already jumped on board and this fall Huntington Woods will be one city to help pilot the program for SOCRRA.

“Simple Recycling is looking to help communities pull additional material out of the landfills because national statistics tells us that about 85 percent of fiber material ends up in the landfill and about 99 percent of it can be repurposed or in some way reused or recycled,” said Claire Galed, the Huntington Woods Department of Public Works manager. “Clearly, we are throwing away a lot of good material that has a second life, and we were approached by this company and asked if we would be interested in taking this on. And SOCRRA is always interested in doing anything that would divert materials.”

Simple Recycling President Adam Winfield said the goal is to collect clothes and other household items less than 40 pounds that can range from belts and purses to toys, kitchenware and tools. The company will have a mail outreach program they start when a start date is set that will give residents information, as well as their first Simple Recycling bags and some tags for additional bags.

To recycle with Simple Recycling, all residents have to do is place their approved items in the provided bag or place a tag on additional bags or items and place them out on the curb during their normal recycling pick up. Simple Recycling will then send a truck around to collect the items and leave new bags and tags.

“According to EPA numbers, clothing and textile-related items are approximately 5 percent of the municipal waste streams, so that is the largest single category we are entering,” Winfield said. “The other categories we are collecting combined equal an additional 5 percent, so the categories of materials we are focused on diverting represent about 10 percent of municipal waste.”

When looking at the statistics, Winfield said there was an obvious need for someone to tackle recycling these other materials and items. By having a city such as Huntington Woods pilot the program, the goal is to get Simple Recycling into every home.

“When people get rid of stuff, the first thing you think of is Purple Heart or Goodwill or another donation organization, but according to EPA, only 15 percent of clothing and usable household items are donated in any capacity,” he said. “For our organization, we are focused on capturing that 85 percent by making it easy for residents to recycle as it is to throw away. We support charitable donations, and we want people to continue to donate that 15 percent, but we want to make it easy for that 85 percent to be kept out of the trash.”

When Simple Recycling collects the material, they start by taking the top 10 percent of quality items and taking them to local thrift stores. Then, with the middle 60-80 percent that is still of reusable condition but maybe not suited for resale in the United States, they ship it overseas to international markets.

Finally, the bottom 10-15 percent that is not reusable, such as items that are torn or badly stained, they get broken down into base materials like cotton or wool and recycled.

Galed said when Huntington Woods was approached about being part of the pilot program, which will include Hazel Park and possibly Birmingham, she knew right away the program would be a good fit for the city.

“We love doing new things, and Huntington Woods prides itself on being on the forefront of these things,” she said. “We are always eager and willing to take on new projects, and to me, it was a no-brainer. I know my community really likes to show things can be done and we will go into it with the idea that this can work and is a worthwhile program. Everyone I have spoke to all seem very enthusiastic, and that is just the way of life here in Huntington Woods.”

For every pound that pilot cities recycle, Simple Recycling will give a penny per pound to SOCRRA, or $20 on a per-ton basis, and SOCRRA will then rebate the cities.

Winfield said each city could save between $40-$90 on landfill costs per ton, so the total opportunity is to earn $60-$110 per ton being part of this program. But the only way a real change can be had, he said, is if residents participate.

“The key to the program is participation by the communities and spreading the word for people to take advantage of the program,” Winfield said. “So far, we have programs in Cleveland and in the Detroit area, so we have about 10 communities currently up and running. This is the only program I know of that has this much of an impact on the amount of stuff going into the landfills, and it is completely free to the residents and the city.”

For more information on the Simple Recycling program, visit