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Boston councilor proposes curbside recycling for that dress or suit you now hate

City Councilor Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury) is proposing curbside pickup of unwanted clothing for sale to companies that can then do something with it.

Textile collection, reuse, and recycling reduce solid waste and have significant environmental and economic benefits. There are private companies that pay municipalities for the value of textiles that are “upcycled” or reused.

For several years, so far unsuccessfully, O'Malley has also pushed curbside pickup of kitchen scraps that could be turned into compost.

The issue could come up at the City Council's regular meeting, which starts at noon in the council's fifth-floor chambers in City Hall.



In Dorchester there are people who “sift” (if you will) through recycling, and through trash for scrap materials. I can’t imagine much of the clothing would be left by the time the “pick-ups” happen.

Yeah I live in a neighborhood where they do that too. At least we've moved to plastic recycling bins (no more plastic bags) so MOST of the pickers pick it up.

I am concerned about clothes.. people WILL pick thru that stuff. And then of course if it rains or snows.. then you have wet clothes.

Support the idea of doing so (it would help many of us who cannot often bring stuff to be donated), but worry it would just create a bigger, messier problem.

Composting is a dumb idea in the city because rodents.

And as far as this goes, we already have people going into yards digging through trash for cans and bottles. Now we will have entrepreneurs perusing for items to resell.

There are programs already to help people get back on their feet by way of donated suits and clothing for job interviews.

O'Malley is just playing to his purple house constituency.


Whenever we put out old housewares or metal items the night before our trash pickup, they're almost always gone by the time the trash guys come around - because we have people who drive around in ancient pickups looking for stuff (one time, I was struggling to get our old stove outside; one of the ancient-pickup guys happened to be driving by, stopped, helped me get it to the curb and then I helped him get it in his truck).

So maybe we just have a better class of recyclers around here (not in O'Malley's district, we're in gritty Tim McCarthy's district).


So why bother studying the possibility of creating a committee to setup a council to oversee the creation of a city program that will waste resources for something that's not even an issue?

If they've got the time and money for this, I propose offering more hazardous waste pickups and locations so people aren't tempted to just dump stuff down drains or in with their regular trash.

Listen, I'm a Democratic voter, proudly liberal and understand the need to help those in our society less fortunate. That just isn't the case here.

O'Malley is pandering.

There are organizations that will come to you and pick stuff up if you call. It seems unnecessary to have it every week. I am interested in composting but I don't want to attract rats.


In Cambridge, the curbside compost bins provided by the city appear to be more secure than trash bins- they have thick walls and latching lids. I would expect these bins to actually reduce rodent activity. I hope they've been collecting data post-implementation!

Where I lived before moving to Boston. They have city wide compostables pickup. It goes in a green bin and looks just like the trash and recycling bins. Not saying SF is a cleaner city (it's not) but it was certainly nice only putting out the garbage bin once a month.

I would love for Boston to adopt the practice. In SF much of the food waste went to East Bay MUD where it was put into a digester to make CNG. Why can't we do this in Boston and Deer Island?


This is the link to the pilot composting project in boston. no drop offs in Dorchester though.

Apparently you can recycle textiles at the hazardous waste drop offs.

If you compost properly you won't have a rat issue. No animal products or fats go into my compost; I've had it for 10+ years w/out an issue.

i had my basement cleaned by GOT JUNK. I told them to leave the ACs behind.

I pulled my back out the day before trash day so I could not get them out. I waited out front until I saw the pickers come by, flagged them down, and asked if they would be willing to move them out of my basement in trade for keeping them for scrap.

Oh they certainly liked that idea... all that copper inside, and were more than happy to help.

My city has curbside clothing recycling. The clothes/textiles are put out in a separate, well-marked bag and picked up on trash day. No fuss, no muss, no bother. If someone wanted to "steal" the clothes in the bag, well, they could just take the whole bag. I haven't heard that this is a problem, and I also haven't seen the sidewalks strewn with discarded clothes.


But Southie for one is a neighborhood that does have a problem with trash strewn streets, especially after the bins have been rummaged through and contents discarded on the street the night before.

Garbagemen don't pick that stuff up.

Other far more dense cities manage to have compost pickup, like London. It's not like you put the scraps in an open top container or it's being composted on the street.

I would love to have more opportunities to recycle used fabric- it's not all clothing suitable for donation- other than the hazardous waste day that comes around a few times a year. One only needs so many rags.

Composting is no dumber than putting food trash in regular bins. You think rats care what kind of bag the food is in?

I have never, not once, had someone open my gate and come into my Eastie garden to access my recyclables. Not even during renovation when I had copper wires and pipes lying out in the open. (I did have one neighbor ring the bell and politely ask if I would like him to remove the scrap, and the mailman was happy to get some old door hardware.)

Once it's out front I really don't care what happens as long as it's not flung into the street. Bring on the entrepreneurs!

I have a lot of lightly worn clothes and no interest in checking them for moth holes, guessing resale value, etc. Cut them into rags for all I care. This sounds wonderful.

Well. I guess that settles that.

...in Rat City (Allston). No rodent issues. Not with the compost anyway.

I compost in a Roslindale without any rodent issues. Lots of nice soil for my garden too. Also lots of cities do this. 21st century. Welcome.

I have way too many pieces of worn-out clothing that Goodwill would not want. I hate throwing anything in the trash. This is excellent.

(They sometimes try to ban pickers in various neighborhoods, because of NIMBY or something, which is ridiculous and only adds to the landfills.)

for people to donate used clothing to a number of charities. We don't need the government competing with them.

I don't know the Boston proposal, but in Medford the city has partnered with some private group that handles the pickups. The only thing the city does is coordinate the trash days and provide information about it via the town's platforms. There's no expense to the city and it's no displacing other methods of donating.

I haven't used it yet but I appreciate the fact I don't need to lug a bag of clothes to a box or call to schedule a pickup. So I'd consider it good government -- It provides a service that offers a benefit to the residents without imposing a burden on the town's budget.


May be that charities don't want my torn and stained painting/yard work/animal wrangling clothes. I suspect they have to process them again for textile recycling and that may or may not be a burden. I'd feel better putting them curbside rather than worrying about them or throwing them in the trash.

Boston Hazardous Waste drop-off days accept clothing for pulping. Materials get returned to the pre-thread/yarn stage and reincorporated.

Actually this would be good. I have towels that are so worn out and ripped sheets and worn jeans that I would love to have recycled.


Make a furry friend's day happy.

Donate Sheets and Towels to your local MSCPA or Animal Shelter. Many use old sheets and towels for bedding and cleaning animals (so they can be discarded after)

They are always looking for this stuff.

It's true, there are many, many worthy organizations where you can donate used clothing in good condition to be either re-sold or given to needy people. All well and good, and folks should certainly donate what they can to such organizations.

But it is nearly impossible to get rid of worn-out, stained, or otherwise unwearable clothing, which makes a bulky addition to landfill trash. I welcome some effort to provide a way to recycle textiles. To those who have pointed out that weekly collection seems a bit much: excellent point. Perhaps textile recycling could be collected monthly, or on some other occasional schedule, as is currently done with yard waste. But yes, please, let's start somewhere!


Take a look at this MassDEP fact sheet on used textiles! You can donate your ripped, torn, and stained items! These items are often recycled into insulation. The fact sheet also has tons of info on where to donate and where your donations go.


but also, H&M (there's one on Newbury near the public garden) will take your clothes in ANY condition to be remade into things they sell. We take a bag to them a couple of times per year. They only give you a % off coupon but it's better than nothing.

This hits home to me. I just threw out a couple stained shirts and pants with agile that wouldn’t be useful to a nonprofit. I hated that I had to throw them out.

Exactly - there's tons and tons of places to donate wearable clothing, but finding someplace to take true textile waste is tough. I'm a hobby sewist and have tons and tons of small scrap fabric trash - I know it CAN be recycled into cushions, insulation, industrial uses, etc - but finding someplace to bring it in the city has been a PITA.

Repeat of my above post: Boston Hazardous Waste drop-off days accept clothing for pulping. Materials get returned to the pre-thread/yarn stage and reincorporated.

This is good to know, but unfortunately I don't drive or have a car. Neither of the locations for these events (South Boston or West Roxbury) is easy to get to.

why don't we improve the pickup of my recycle bin on a weekly basis.

The city does this on a (non-curbside) monthly basis, no? With dropoff points at City Hall and the West Roxbury facility? Seems like that's already a good start that would only be a benefit to grow to curbside collection.