Donation bins are placed by for-profit recycler

NEW RICHMOND, Wis. - A for-profit recycling company's move into western Wisconsin hasn't cut into donations for local charities yet, charity officials report.

NEW RICHMOND, Wis. - A for-profit recycling company's move into western Wisconsin hasn't cut into donations for local charities yet, charity officials report.

U'SAgain, based in the Twin Cities, and which is known for its red containers used to collect used clothing and shoes, recently began placing its collection boxes in western Wisconsin, which a company spokeswoman is a natural expansion of their operation because they have a warehouse so near.

But while nationwide some have claimed that U'SAgain's presence has decreased donations to local charities, charity officials in New Richmond say the for-profit company hasn't hurt them yet.

"I think we're in pretty good shape," said Mona Flanum, the president of the Five Loaves Food Shelf and Clothing Center in New Richmond. "Our donations have been very good."

The center charges customers $1 for as much clothing and shoes as they need.


Mary Sather, the curator of the New Richmond Heritage Center, said she hasn't noticed a drop-off in donations either.

"We still get deluged with clothes," she said.

U'SAgain (pronounced "use again") has operated nationwide for a decade and has containers in Minnesota as far north as Detroit Lakes. They have about 8,000 collection boxes nationwide and about 900 in the Minnesota region.

According to U'SAgain President Janice Bostic, the company made its first foray into western Wisconsin in recent weeks placing four boxes in New Richmond and two in Hudson.

"It's just a natural progression for us," she said.

U'SAgain officials hope the convenient drop-off boxes will convince people to recycle clothing rather than throw it away, Bostic said.

Some of U'SAgain's collections are sold to importers who sell the clothes and shoes in places like Africa. Other clothing is sold to thrift stores. The rest is sorted by a "grading company" that determines if the remaining items have value for recycling or reuse.

Bostic admits the company has previously been criticized for their understated disclaimer that donated items will be sold on the global market for a profit. But U'SAgain has never tried to hide the fact that they run a for-profit operation, she added.


"There is such a need for recycling," she said. "Anybody who is willing to do the work should be involved. There should be more of us rather than fewer of us."

Besides, Bostic said, U'SAgain has little or no impact on established non-profit organizations like Goodwill or Salvation Army in their used clothing collection.

Even though U'SAgain is profit driven, Bostic said the company doesn't just take the money and run. Each of the host sites for the red collection containers gets a per-pound payment for donated items. That money can either be sent to the local business as rent, or that business can designate a non-profit where the funds will be sent.

Bostic said U'SAgain sends out about $30,000 quarterly to non-profits and to businesses for "profit sharing" payments.

Jeff Homlquist is a reporter for the New Richmond (Wis.) Times, which is owned by

Forum Communications Co.

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