Do you ever wonder what happens to all your old clothes after you put it in a recycle bin? You'd be surprised at exactly how many people this one bag will help.
This is American Textiles Recycling Services, or ATRS, one of the nation's largest recyclers. You've probably seen one of their donation boxes in your local neighborhood.
"When you put your stuff in that trash bag or box when you are cleaning out your closet, you just put everything in there. Kids shoes, clothes they've out grown, last season's office shoes. When it gets here, we open that bag and we sort everything by items. So it's all arranged by clothing, toys, shoes and different other classifications," says Deborah Stevenson-Peganyee with ATRS.
Every item is sorted. From children clothes, by age, men, women, sweater, shoes, toys and even by season. Some of the items still have tags on them. Sorters can sort about 2,000 pounds a day because it's coming from all over the country.
"Everything the community gives to us is given a second life. Whatever is unwanted to you is desperately needed by someone else," says Deborah.
First, the sorted clothes and toys are offered to community groups in the area of town where the items were originally donated.
"The American Textiles Recycling Services has really been a wonder for our ministry. They provided not only the brand new Men's Warehouse suits that you've seen, but also blue jeans, backpacks, socks, underwear, t-shirts, blankets for the homeless population that we reach out," says Pastor Shawn Manney.
Pastor Shawn Manney gets clothing from ATRS and gives it to people in need, like Travis Bonser.
"I've got four or five suits now. This one happens to be Ralph Lauren.It makes me feel really good because when I first started coming to church I was embarrassed because I didn't have any clothes to wear. It's really boosted my self esteem," says Travis.
Travis and others helped by ATRS don't pay a dime for the clothing.
"I live on a fixed income. It's really hard to have my money stretched the whole month," says Travis.
LaTonya McQuillon provides clothing to homeless. She says, "To see the faces of the people when they are able to get clothing items, blue jeans or a pair of socks, to us it may be very minimal but to them, to see their faces they just light up."
According to Pastor Manney, "It's the most fulfilling thing I've ever done in my entire life. It brings me such joy at the end of each ministry because I know that I've helped someone else."
"Once the local charities get what they need, the remaining clothing keeps on giving. A lot of this clothing goes to merging nations, third world countries where people have a huge desire for these garments. They are well made and they last a long time. American brands are very very desirable. They really help families and children that are in need. It's a huge industry that creates about 100 thousand jobs around the world. It's an international world wide industry. There are about 100-thousand people around the world that make a living from what we do here." says Peganyee.
Any group can make money off of this. You can arrange a fundraiser by organizing a clothing drive. A portion of the proceeds are always given to the groups who collect the clothing -- knowing that this is saving money, creating revenue right in your local community.
And, if you think your damaged clothing can't be reused, think again. Do not throw anything away -- all the way down to fabrics that are stained, buttons missing. Those can be used for industry wiping rags. Denim is reused in many other industries -- like insulation. All jeans make amazing insulation for homes. It's what actually is in a lot of stuffing -- your couch and office chair are probably made by fiber from jeans.
Even individuals can make money by donating. Every donation you make is tax deductable. Simply request a receipt for the value you feel like you donated.
For more information about American Textile Recycling Services visit atrscorp.com.
Due to the pre-recorded nature of this program, some prices may not be current. Please check your local retailer.