Evanston aldermen Monday are scheduled to approve a contract with a private firm to provide curbside recycling of clothing and a variety of other items not part of the current city-run recycling program.

Ohio-based Simple Recycling started offering its service last summer in Elgin and last month in Skokie and Lincolnwood, and also has operations in Michigan and Texas.

Public Works Director Dave Stoneback, in a memo to aldermen, says the five-year contract would let residents of single-family homes and apartment buildings with up to five units “recycle a multitude of materials on a weekly basis.”

The “soft recyclables” concept, Stoneback says, includes items that weigh less than 50 pounds, so they can be carried by a single operator of the recycling truck.

The emphasis is on clothing — but also includes everything from jewelry and toys to small appliances and electronic equipment.

Garbage, hazardous waste, large furniture and appliances and any item heavier than 50 pounds are among things excluded from the program. It also will not serve commercial clients.

Residents would be able to put out the recyclables in plastic bags provided by the company next to their existing trash cans on their usual trash pickup days.

Simple Recycling founder Adam Winfield says about 85 percent of clothing and other household textiles now ends up in landfills and that they make up 6 to 10 percent of the total residential waste stream.

Some of the clothing Simple Recycling collects is sold to local thrift stores, but most is shipped overseas for reuse. That practice has come under criticism in some African countries where it is blamed for stifling local textile production.

The program would operate at no cost to the city, and the city would earn a penny per pound fee on items collected. Stoneback says that amount is not likely to add up to much, but “the program has the potential to divert a large amount of material from the landfill,” which would reduce landfill fees the city now pays.

YouTube video

A company video explaining how the service operates

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Why not try this?

    if I understood the article, this service doesn’t cost the Evanston taxpayer and adds a convienence. Worth a try.

    1. No to Simply Green

      The law of unintended consequences will slap us silly on this one. Savvy pickers will pick up those bags in”better” neighborhoods long before a van or 2 or 3 makes it through the alleys of Evanston.Snowy days, rainy days, holidays etc will these bags hold up to the possibly Of sitting out for long periods of time. When pickers tear open these bags on a treasure hunts, will they carefully repackage all the other usable items or chuck them in the trash? Will Simply green respond to clean up calls or will our sanitation have to answer to trash calls.

      The Goodwill at Dodge Plaza has a covered canopy, accepts items in all kinds of weather,gives you a receipt, recycles All items that don’t meet their standards for resale. They employ Evanston citizens, minorities and have had zero negative affect on traffic while recycling tons of Evanston items. They don’t truck in stuff to fill their store and benefit our community, they need these aforementioned items to continue operating in our town.

      Let’s support our local businesses and recognize free is rarely free.

      1. But Z
        “Goodwill happily accepts the following new or gently used items:” What about the well used items?

        This is an awesome alternative to paying to add these items to the landfill! So far scavenging hasn’t been an issue in Skokie.

  2. Charity
    I would encourage people to give clothing to the charitable organizations in their communities. They sell it in their thrift shops and use the money to help homeless and poor people. There are many collection boxes in the Evanston area.

    Simple Recycling is a for profit business. When you give useable clothing to them, they will attempt to sell it to charitable organizations.

    1. Charity

      Hi bweb,

      Only 15 percent of clothing is being recycled under the current charity-driven system. And nothing in this new program prevents people from continuing to use the traditional approach.

      Also worth noting that it costs charities money to operate their own pickup program.

      It’s not clear to me that the net cost to charities of acquiring clothing for resale from this for-profit organization would be higher than running their own pickup programs.

      Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn’t.

      — Bill

      1. Don’t object to new service

        I don’t object to this free service. I think it would be good for the city, financially. If you look at their web site you can find many other thing they will pick up for free. I think Evanston should go for this. It is a win for the city.

        One other point, when you give clothing, shoes ……. to charities, it is tax deductible. When you give to a for-profit there is no tax deduction.

        I wish for a great year for Evanston Now

    2. Unsalable Items
      Some times there are items that can’t be sold ripped, stained….this is an alternative to throwing them away.

      Due to a recent death in the family I have been cleaning out closets, All decent “soft items” (clothing and bedding) have gone to charity. The pieces that are well worn, ripped or stained have been going to a friend in Skokie for their recycling and not the landfill.

      Would welcome the program in Evanston!

  3. Sounds kool
    Especially the no cost to the city. Provides a pickup alternative to Salvation Army / Goodwill etc.

  4. Simple recycling
    My home in Evanston is not serviced by city trash pickup. A large townhouse homeowner association, the city always arranges for an outside private vendor to collect our trash.the workers have to come onto our private yards to pick up our trash, not picking up in the alley or from the parkway. So will we be included in this soft recycling program?

    1. No.

      Hi Susan,

      The proposal calls for no commercial service, and no service for properties of more than 5 residential units.

      I suppose it’s possible that might be added later if there’s demand.

      — Bill

  5. Why do they need a City contract?
    Why do they even need a city contract to operate? They don’t appear to operate significantly any differently than organizations like the Vietnam Vets or the Salvation Army who will pick up the same types of things from residents.

    Sure they are a for-profit company, but that shouldn’t make any difference from the city’s perspective.

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