For the last 24 years, Southeastern Vermont Community Action’s (SEVCA’s) four “Good Buy” Thrift Stores, including its two in White River Junction, have recycled the clothing that didn’t sell, in order to reduce the waste stream going into the landfill and raise needed revenue to support its programs for vulnerable low-income residents in need.

But until 7 years ago, it was just a small-scale effort based on recycling bags of clothes that its Good Buy customers brought to the stores when they came in to shop. Then in November 2007, SEVCA decided to ratchet up its recycling game, significantly expanding its scope and nature. It purchased an industrial baler, opened a warehouse, and the regional Solid Waste Management District purchased and placed 4 large recycling bins – the ‘Red Sheds’ – at landfills and transfer stations around the area to collect recyclable clothing, shoes, and other textiles from local residents.

In 2009, SEVCA was able to build and place 9 more ‘Red Sheds’ thanks to American Recovery & Re-investment Act (ARRA) ‘stimulus’ funds. These new sheds were added to local area transfer stations and others around the state, other towns provided their own sheds, and SEVCA conducted outreach to other thrift stores to allow them to pick up their recycled clothes, in a greatly expanded commitment to reduce local landfill waste and generate additional revenue to support SEVCA’s vital services for low-income residents facing financial hardships.

SEVCA’s ‘Red Sheds’ are now located at transfer stations and/or thrift stores in the towns of Cavendish, Norwich, Plymouth, Rockingham, Weathersfield, Ludlow, Wilmington, Rutland, Johnson, Brattleboro, Moretown, and Stowe. Springfield VT and Marlborough (NH) provide their own sheds that are designated for textile recycling.

“Last year we recycled approximately 350 tons of unsold clothing and shoes from 14 towns,” said Tonia White, SEVCA’s Thrift Store / Textile Recycling Program Director, explaining how the process worked. “We sort all the clothes that are donated. Those in good enough condition go to be sold in our thrift stores. The rest are baled in roughly 1,000 pound bales and sold to a recycling wholesaler, who sorts and sells them for re-use and re-processing. Most of the clothing and shoes are shipped to other countries for resale as affordable clothing for people who might otherwise not be adequately clothed. Other items are converted back into fiber textiles, yarn, rags and other recycled products.”

Darline Rhoades, the District Manager of the White River Junction area stores, noted, “In the past, we weren’t able to take damaged clothing or leftover rummage items at our stores. But since we expanded our recycling capacity, people can now bring in their old, unwearable clothes as well as the good, resalable items, without having to worry whether we’ll turn them away. They can drop off all of it to any one of our stores, Red Sheds, or other designated sites. All we ask is that none of it is wet or dirty.”

The proceeds from the sale of these recycled items help support SEVCA’s mission to assist local residents struggling with the hardships of poverty to meet their basic needs of housing, heating fuel and utilities, food, clothing, and furniture, and change their lives for the better. Marty Wheeler, Textile Recycling’s Head Baler / Truck Driver, said, “We may not be as big as the ‘yellow box’ people (Planet Aid), but unlike them, we can say that the funds raised from our red sheds are used to help local Vermonters deal with crises and unmet needs.”

SEVCA is the non-profit designated by state and federal officials to address the full range of needs of low-income residents of Windham and Windsor Counties. In addition to providing the “safety net” for households in financial crisis, its services help them stabilize their lives, make their homes safe and energy-efficient, take strides toward becoming self-reliant, and enable their children to escape the generational poverty cycle. These goals are achieved through such programs as Family Services, Crisis Fuel, Homelessness Prevention, Housing Stabilization, 3SquaresVT (Food Stamp) Outreach, Budget Counseling, Weatherization, Financial Literacy, Individual Development (Matched Savings) Accounts, Economic & Workforce Development, Tax Preparation Assistance, Thrift Stores, VT Health Connect, Working Bridges Resource Coordination, and Head Start. For questions on SEVCA’s textile recycling or thrift stores contact Tonia White, 800-464-9951 Ext. 152.