Yarmouth has joined a number of municipalities in the area in adding textiles to its recycling efforts.

The goal in adding the drop boxes for old and unwanted clothing and shoes at the Yarmouth Transfer Station is to keep as much of them out of  landfills as possible, according to Joe Whitten, owner and chief executive officer of Apparel Impact, which provides the receptacles for the municipalities and picks up the materials.

“Textile waste is the fastest growing waste in the country,” Whitten said. “Our first focus is diverting textile waste from landfills.”

Apparel Impact boxes located at Yarmouth Transfer Station. Sydney Richelieu / The Forecaster

New Hampshire-based Apparel Impact has set up 125 drop sites in Maine, at no costs to the towns, since expanding into the state in 2019. Other sites in the area include the Lumbery and the transfer station in Cape Elizabeth, the South Portland Transfer Station, the Maine Street Bee in Freeport and Maine Veterans’ Homes in Scarborough. The OceanView retirement community in Falmouth also has a drop box for its residents. The town of Falmouth is looking into offering textile recycling, according to Jeff Buxton, director of Public Works in Falmouth.

In addition to clothing, eligible items for recycling include shoes, bed sheets, towels and accessories, such as purses, ties, scarves and hats. Since its start in 2014, Apparel Impact says, it has accepted more than 45 million eligible items.

The amount of textiles that end up is landfills is significant and increasing, said Lissa Bittermann, business development manager at Apparel Impact.


“The latest statistic that the Environmental Protection Agency has come out with is that Americans generate 17 million tons of discarded clothing, shoes, textiles, per year,” Bittermann said. “The sub-statistic in that is that 85% of those discarded items go in the trash.”

While many people donate unwanted but wearable clothing to places like Goodwill and the Salvation Army, damaged clothing is usually tossed because “people don’t want to insult or pass along something damaged to somebody who’s in need,” Bittermann said.

“They don’t understand that there’s actually a huge market for the damaged items where they can be recycled and repurposed into other products,” she said, such as insulation or furniture stuffing.

Once Apparel Impact collects the clothing, it is sorted for donation or recycling.

“We’re reducing a huge amount of landfill waste, and we’re providing clothing to families that are low income or finding themselves in a difficult spot,” Whitten said.

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