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Your Beyond Repair Clothing Does Not Have to Be Destined for a Landfill

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My cousin sent me this text message the other day.

It is a good question and while there are plenty of places in the Chicagoland area where you can bring your gently used clothing, there are not so many places to drop off clothing and textiles that are longer wearable or useful.

The U.S. EPA has found that 85% of all discarded textiles (that’s 12 million tons) are sent to landfills every single year.

USAgain

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USAgain has drop-off collection bins all around the city. They accept clothes, shoes and household textiles (like towels, bedding, tablecloths, etc) regardless of condition.

Usagain chicago locations


Chicago Textile Recycling

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Chicago Textile Recycling provides textile recycling outlets and fundraising opportunities for organizations, businesses, and municipalities. They collect used clothing, shoes, and household items for reuse and recycling, resulting in a diversion of over 2.5 million pounds of waste from area landfills annually.

Unfortunately, they don’t have as many drop-off options as USAgain does within Chicago and Cook County (as in they have zero). There is a drop-off box at their warehouse in Hillside just outside the city and about 20 locations within Lake County.


Patagonia Worn Wear

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Through the Patagonia Worn Wear Program, you can return Patagonia products that are well beyond repair to be recycled it into something new, or repurposed, by bringing it to a local store or mailing it in.

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The North Face Clothes the Loop

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The North Face Clothes the Loop allows you to bring in used apparel and footwear of any condition or brand and receive a $10 reward towards your next purchase of $100 or more. Items are repurposed for reuse to extend their life or recycled into raw materials for use in products like insulation, carpet padding, stuffing for toys, and fibers for new clothing.

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Other Options:

 

So now you know that your stained and ripped clothing can be used again!

Chicago Recycling Round-Up (Hint: It’s Not Good)

My experience recycling in Chicago has not been easy, and I have written about it every step of the way.

Just getting a blue cart for our building was a challenge. I mean, it took 79 days, and numerous follow ups for it to arrive on our curb.

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But once the blue cart arrived, it was not smooth sailing.

For a while, I was placated by the multiple notes I noticed taped to the carts, to serve as a reminder that they are for recycling only. I was comforted that someone cared enough to write the note but also annoyed that they were necessary in the first place.

 

After that, the city-wide recycling drop-off centers began to be phased out and the City released a video showing why plastic grocery bags do not go into your blue cart (Spoiler Alert: It seriously messes up the machinery.)

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Goodbye my dear friend

 

A few months went by without too much excitement, but that must have been the calm before the storm. Our maintenance has had trouble understanding how recycling works, making it even more frustrating, thus why so many blog posts were necessary.

 

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Caught our recyclables being moved from the blue cart to the trash cart

 

Hopefully, now that we are nearing the anniversary of the beginning of this struggle, I the next year should be less eventful.

I promise to keep you updated.

The Never Ending Recycling Saga

This seems to never end.

I previously posted about how I finally got our maintenance to stop stuffing the recyclables from our blue cart into the trash cans so they could avoid putting out the blue cart in the first place.

It was a short-lived win.

Today, the garbage cans were out.  There was no blue cart in sight even though it is recycling week (Chicago operates on a once every other week pick up schedule).

Out of curiosity, I went down to check out if there were any recyclables that had been confiscated from their rightful place in the blue cart.

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Sure enough, there were.

And I know these weren’t in the trash can to begin with because those are our recyclables. That’s K’s beer can and our tomato sauce can. I would never have put them in there.

Reluctantly, I trudged to the side of our building to retrieve our blue cart, at the same time that my neighbors were just getting home. I asked if they used the blue cart.

They do, and that launched them into an enthusiastic response of how upset they were that it’s not being handled correctly. They have called and left notes, but alas nothing had changed.

That meant I got to call maintenance again. He is probably going to start screening his calls now. I had to explain yet again that all they needed to do was take out the cart on the same day as garbage. THAT. IS. IT. No extra effort on their part is involved.

 

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Out of pure frustration and annoyance, I took all the recyclables and put them back in the blue cart.

 

 

A Recycling Conspiracy Solved

An update to A Recycling Conspiracy 


As I was putting some food scraps into my compost bucket on the fire escape, I heard some noise coming from below. I stealthily closed the door and took a peek back outside.

To my surprise, there was one of our building’s maintenance men pulling recyclables out of our blue cart and stuffing them into the black landfill cart!

I watched for a few minutes to make sure what I was seeing was correct.

Suddenly I was overcome with frustration and I ran to throw on my coat and go and confront the recycling thief.

Unfortunately, this maintenance worker did not speak much English, so I was not sure how much my message was getting across. I tried to explain that the paper and the plastic we have been painstakingly been putting in the blue cart, should stay in the blue cart, to be recycled.

I did what I could there and went back up to call our usual maintenance man and explain the situation.

Here are some key points from his super logical explanation:

  • Yes, they have been taking recycling out of the blue cart
  • Recycling pick up is not every week so they just can’t take it out
  • The maintenance guy only comes on certain days so he doesn’t want to leave the blue cart out on the curb because people will throw trash in it…..(umm…excuse me!?)

Garbage and recycling get picked up on the same day for us, so he has no idea what he is talking about.

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Basically, it is going to come down to me taking out our blue cart on recycling day. I don’t trust them anymore.

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No! Not the Recycling Drop-Off Centers!

Compared to other major cities (or any city), Chicago’s recycling rate is pretty dismal. Like really really dismal.

Only 10% of waste gets diverted from landfills.

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That is compared to San Francisco’s 80% and Seattle’s 60%. Yikes.

Anyway, that’s a topic for another day.

The City of Chicago is phasing out its 6 recycling drop-off centers. Back before it took me 79 days to get my Blue Cart, I relied heavily on these drop-off centers to unload my recyclables. I basically used my car as storage until I had enough to warrant a drive over to Lincoln Park.

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Come January 1, all of these will be gone. The new ordinance calls for every Chicago property to have its own recycling program. That is awesome and all, but the drop-off centers should not have to go!

The reasoning for their departure is they need constant servicing and are often contaminated with garbage, clothes, and construction debris. Since all buildings should hypothetically have to recycle or be fined, officials deemed it was ok to scale back on the drop-off centers.

I say hypothetically because larger apartment buildings were already mandated to provide recycling, but it basically was not enforced to the point that the frustrated Chicagoans created www.mybuildingdoesntrecycle.com.

The drop-off centers should stay.

If it took 79 days to get my Blue Cart from the City, I highly doubt buildings are going to get recycling programs set up any faster than that. The centers are great for when you have a lot of large boxes or items that you don’t want to overflow your own Blue Cart with.

For example, our cart is split between the 4 apartments in our building. That’s a total of 9 people and probably some of the neighbors. I can’t just shove a bunch of boxes in there and think it will be fine until it is picked up in 2 weeks.

 

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9 people’s recycling has to fit in here for 2 weeks

To be honest, I have not used the drop-off centers since getting our Blue Cart, but it was still nice to know that it was an option.

If the City is worried about our recycling rate, I think taking away centrally located recycling drop-off centers is a step in the wrong direction.

 

 

 

Real Christmas Tree= Real Benefits

We have surpassed Thanksgiving. Now it is finally acceptable to enjoy anything Christmas.

Since K and I now live together we had the very adult discussion about artificial vs. real Christmas trees. K’s family has historically gone with real trees, while my family has pretty much always went the fake route.

From an environmental standpoint which is better?

 

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Our Michigan grown Fraser Fir

 

Both have their own pros and cons.

Artificial Tree Pros

  • Don’t have to buy a new tree year after year, cheap
  • Convenience: can come pre-lit, no needles

Artificial Tree Cons

  • Will eventually be disposed of in a landfill
  • Not made from environmentally friendly or recyclable materials (such as PVC)
  • Most likely made in China (guessing here)

Real Tree Pros

  • Can be composted and mulched up
  • Local, grown in the USA
  • Bolsters local, small business economies
  • Smells awesome

Real Tree Cons

  • Water, land, and resources used on Christmas tree farms
  • Most likely grown with harmful pesticides
  • Needles

So which wins?

Again, both have pros and cons, but overall, a real tree at least provides some environmental benefit while it is maturing, such as CO2 removal and wildlife habitat. It is most likely trucked from less distance than an artificial tree and can be returned to the Earth when the season is over.

The life cycle of an artificial tree provides much less benefit and any fake tree that has ever been thrown out is currently sitting in a landfill right now. Just saying.

Additional Resources:

 

 

 

 

Just Say No…To the Free Goodies at the Dentist

I went to the dentist yesterday and as I was making my way there, I kept thinking about the plastic bag of “goodies” they give out to all their patients. Usually this involves a toothbrush, floss, toothpaste, and special floss for those with permanent retainers, all in a nice plastic bag. There may even be some coupons in there.

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So after my cleaning, the dental hygienist started to pack up my “goodie bag,” and I quickly stopped her with some combination of the following arguments:

  • No, I do not need another toothbrush. We have approximately 5,000 in our bathroom cabinet from you guys already. Also my mom shops at Costco, and I am going to invest in a bamboo toothbrush anyway.
  • Toothbrushes are extremely difficult to recycle. Every single toothbrush I have ever used is sitting in a landfill! If I replaced my toothbrush every 3 months like the dentist recommends, that means I would have tossed 104 toothbrushes into the trash in my lifetime.
  • No, I don’t want tiny toothpaste. As with the toothbrushes, we have approximately 5,000 of them already.
  • I only want the floss if it is the good kind. If it is not, put it back in the drawer.
  • I also do not need your dentist-themed plastic bag, I will just toss my floss in my purse and I am good to go.

To accumulate less stuff, we have to learn the art of refusal and saying no to things we do not want pretty much anywhere we go.

***Cover photo credit: Greenpeace