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Green Clothing Recycling Boxes Hurt Duluth-area Nonprofits

This is my first post on PDD, although I have been an avid fan and reader for quite some time.

I am posting today to inform the PDD community of an issue that concerns area nonprofits and people with disabilities. Like many of you, I have noticed these green clothing collection boxes all over town. I also wondered who was responsible for placing them and where the clothing and items donated were going. As the boxes declare, “Recycle Locally” and feature the United Cerebral Palsy foundation’s logo on one full face of the box, I assumed that the boxes were put out on behalf of a local CP nonprofit, in order to raise money for their cause. This, however, is not the case. 

As a member of the City of Duluth Commission on Disabilities, I became aware that these boxes — of which there are now at least 57 in Duluth and the surrounding communities — have been placed here by a private for-profit business from the Twin Cities. Triangle Recycling owns the boxes and they sell the clothing collected in these boxes. They ship these clothes out of state to places like Texas and Mexico and keep 95% of the profits. According to the company’s president, they donate 5% of their annual profits to the UCP, which is based in St. Cloud.

That is all good and fine, except these boxes are misleading and they are harming area nonprofits, such as Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and Savers, who depend on local donations to fund their programs, which provide jobs to people with disabilities, services to disabled vets, and other much needed services to people in our community who truly need them. All of these green boxes are on private property, mostly of local business  owners, who were not given all of the facts by Triangle Recycling. Having spoken to several of these area business people, they were shocked and dismayed to hear the full story behind the green boxes.

Please spread the word and encourage businesses in your neighborhoods to demand that these boxes be removed. And, as always, continue to heartily support our local nonprofits who do so much for those in need, right here in our own community.

Below are links to a recent editorial I had published in the DNT about this topic and a story that our local Fox News did about these green boxes. Despite these two stories, nobody I talk to seems to be aware of this situation. Perhaps you can help spread the word and catalyze the movement to eliminate these boxes from our community. Thank you, on behalf of the City of Duluth Commission on Disabilities and everyone in the area who supports or benefits from our local nonprofits.

Reader’s view: Make sure donations are going to local nonprofits

Clothing “Recycling” Boxes Not Local or Charitable

26 Comments

feisty

about 3 years ago

Thanks so much for the info. I wondered if it was something like that. I will talk to any business I frequent with one of those boxes.

ironic1

about 3 years ago

I was always curious about those containers, but never followed up on that curiosity. Thanks for doing the legwork for me.

DH

about 3 years ago

My wife and I were just talking about this briefly last night. Local no profits only for us!

maria

about 3 years ago

Don't forget about the Damiano Center...I think that's the best place to donate clothes. Goodwill is a huge, uber-rich exploitive corporation that makes its profits at the expense of its disabled and underpaid workers. In my humble opinion.

MJ

about 3 years ago

Why don't the local nonprofits make it just as easy to drop off donations? A box available 24/7 where I'm already shopping is much easier than planning an out of the way trip, and I think many others would agree. Although Savers partners with nonprofit companies, they are a privately held for-profit thrift store.

kriss Osbakken

about 3 years ago

Damiano's the deal.

Missy

about 3 years ago

I agree.

Gary

about 3 years ago

We should start a campaign to fill the green boxes with dog poo. It would clean up the environment and send a message to these con artists!

Alex

about 3 years ago

Although dog poo may be going a bit far, I think that misleading people for profits is a terrible thing to do. Lets get rid of these boxes!

Carla

about 3 years ago

The Fox News program interviewed the fellow who placed the boxes but did not tell his side of the story. Yes, he does sell the clothes, but it is not a scam. He does donate 5% to CP. He is not a big corporation, just a guy trying to make a living. Nevertheless, because of the Fox story we asked him to pick up the box in our parking lot due to public pressure.

Judy Moening

about 3 years ago

United Cerebral Palsy serves people with all types of disabilities in Minnesota. In 2007, UCP of Central Minnesota entered into a contract with Triangle Recycling to provide recycling clothing containers in convenient locations for the general public to drop off unwanted clothing and shoes. Triangle Recycling does all of the work and contributes at least 5% of its gross proceeds to UCP to help us continue to provide programs and services to people with disabilities in Minnesota. The donations from Triangle Recycling have totaled thousands of dollars to help us enrich the quality of life for persons with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. United Cerebral Palsy has two offices in Minnesota, one in St. Paul and one in St. Cloud. Through these locations, we serve the entire state of Minnesota. Our programs include information and referral services, public education, financial assistance to purchase specialized equipment, a computer recycling program for people with disabilities and an assistive technology loan and demonstration program. We host workshops for families and professionals and collaborate with many other disability agencies. Triangle has been very generous with UCP and by providing this convenient recycling service, it is helping people with disabilities in the Duluth and entire state of Minnesota. Triangle is doing all the work, providing the insurance, licensing, drivers, and the details of conducting this business, and UCP and the people we serve are benefiting from the generosity. There are many nonprofit organizations that have clothing containers such as Epilepsy, Lupus, Disabled Veterans, and others, and all are trying to keep their programs and services viable. The containers are not misleading. They clearly state that "a portion of the proceeds benefit United Cerebral Palsy." We are fortunate to have an ethical company such as Triangle Recycling helping us to raise much-needed dollars to help us continue to serve those in need.

anonymous

about 3 years ago

Just a reminder that people have a choice as to where they donate their clothing. If these bins are more convenient, than that is where I will donate my items and feel good about the fact that a portion of the proceeds go to a good cause. The bins in the area can't really be doing that much damage to the local organizations.

Triangle Recycling

about 3 years ago

In response to a customer request I would like to try and set the record straight. The past month or so some unfortunate misinformation has been stated about Triangle Recycling, our service and our agreement with the UCP. The misinformation has in large part come from others in the recycling industries that are just looking to push the blame on us for in-house problems with their own programs. Much like sour grapes. Triangle Recycling has for many years now been working in the areas of recycling unwanted clothing and textiles. We pride ourselves on being very open and straight forward in our operations and with our recycling partners. We are a Minnesota, for profit company that recycles clothing and sells it on the world market to buyers who then use it in the best way they can. Some cloth is resold in thrift stores. Some cloth is remade into other items. Some cloth is used in different industries for cleaning. If you have ever used a box of rags to wipe down a woodworking stain project you have used recycled cloth. Some of our detractors say that we are trying to mislead the public and are not local. We are a Minnesota company out of Anoka. We work in St Cloud, Brainerd, Duluth, Mpls/St Paul metro areas all with Minnesota jobs and lives. The UCP service people all over the state of Minnesota from International Falls to Pipestone and in between. our website and letters and handouts all say much the same thing, we don't hide anything. Many of our detractors are part of national groups that not only work local but supports the national organizations too. Does that mean they are not local?? The recycling business in steel, aluminum, iron & clothing etc. is all on a world market. That old car you sold was crushed and may have been sent to china. The clothing is used all over the United States and the world depending on who wants to buy it. As part of our business ethics we feel a responsibility to support others who cannot help themselves and that’s part of the reason for our working agreement with the central Minnesota United Cerebral Palsy. We take 5% of our gross profit and donate it to support the programs and people they serve. Over the past 3 years we have donated over $25,000 to this cause. To some 5% does not seem like much to give but in business that’s a huge amount. Your local grocery store makes about 2% net profit on a loaf of bread that’s .06 on a $3.00 product. How many loafs of bread would we need to sell to donate that $25,000 to the UCP???? On a local Duluth web page (This One) I saw someone talking about Triangle Recycling only giving 5%. That does not mean 95% in the bank. After taxes, the uncertain fuel cost, trucks, warehouse, building truck & machinery repairs, computers, office needs, shipping cost, the recycling boxes themselves, drivers to place and empty the recycling boxes, office staff, sales staff, property insurance, health insurance, unemployment insurance, liability insurance. All that comes before any profit for the company. Even a not for profit has many of the same expenses and when they talk about keeping all of the money for the charity they are being less then honest. How much do they pay in expenses and labor cost. The fact is if we did not approach the UCP and work out this agreement they would not just do it themselves they would do without. And the people they serve are the ones who would hurt the most. Triangle Recycling works to improve our service, help the UCP, maintain our Minnesota jobs and still hold our head up and say who we are and what we do. A Minnesota company with Minnesota jobs helping local Minnesota people in need offering a service the public wants. We are not in the business of trying to scam anyone or hurt local non profits. we just go about our own business and ask others to do the same. Thank you for recycling with us. Triangle Recycling

Sprout

about 3 years ago

Wow, phenomenal. Thank you for sharing this information. I shared this with a local business near me hosting a green box and they said they were extremely surprised and said they would have it removed. It made me feel good to do something to support our local community. If only we could have pick up boxes like this for our own area providers of donated, recycled clothing. It sure was handy to use that green box, but I'm willing to schelp my stuff for the good of our own community. Pass it on and see if you can knock one off your block too. This time "going green" isn't so good!

Cathi Thompson

about 3 years ago

During a time when all non-profit organizations are struggling, any small monetary donation greatly impacts the population it serves.

wildgoose

about 3 years ago

I appreciate that triangle recycling *may* not be a scam and they have the same right as anyone to make a profit. I do think it's a problem though. And I don't like Triangle's assertion that mismanagement at other "recyclers" is the problem. Places like the Damiano Center and the Salvation Army are faith-based/non-profit organizations, not businesses. When people donate old stuff they are generally doing it to help out poor people not generate profits for a business, like Triangle or Savers. Here's a story from WDIO on it, the DNT has a letter to the editor but it's behind a paywall or I'd have linked there, too. Duluth's Salvation Army Looking for More Donations

MJ

about 3 years ago

I once again ask- Instead of complaining, why don't places like the Damiano Center and the Salvation Army make it just as easy to donate? Businesses are obviously willing to host drop-off sites. Personally, I appreciate that someone is willing to do all of the work required to make it very convenient for me to drop off my old stuff. I'm glad it's getting reused or recycled, and if other Minnesotans are able to make a living off of it while at the same time benefiting those in need, more power to them! Instead of a smear campaign, how about some extra proactive work to get more people donating goods to even more worthy causes?

wildgoose

about 3 years ago

This is not a smear campaign What people have been saying is true. The green donation containers for Triangle give 5% of their profits to a worthwhile charity. If the truth is considered a "smear campaign" and they are uncomfortable with it being discussed then the business owners and their boosters might want to re-visit the truth.

MJ

about 3 years ago

Claiming that Triangle Recycling hurts area non-profits while at the same time not knowing that Savers is a for-profit company based out of Washington makes me skeptical of the original poster's information and intent. Doubly so because I read the original letter to the editor online in the DNT, and people in the comments there also pointed out that Savers is not a local non-profit, but the misinformation continues to be spread. I'm glad that Triangle at least jumped in to have their say here. I'm also just happy when people find ways to reuse and recycle items rather than tossing them.

Randi

about 3 years ago

I think we have to look at the information as a whole. Triangle Recycling does give a "portion" (5%) to the UPC which does support some individuals here in Duluth. It is also true the Savers is a for profit business and does give some monetary donations to other non-profit or for need groups. The Damiano and Salvation Army have several drop off sites that make it possible for individuals to drop off donated goods. Goodwill has 24 hour drop off and to make it even easier they complete house calls for items within city limits so that you don't have to find a way to bring your entire truck load in your car. They have helpers that complete all the carrying and will give you a receipt if you ask for one. It is also important to remember that Goodwill falls under an employment agency which qualifies under a wage and hour law let up by MN State Legislator. If you feel that individuals are receiving unfair wages then talk with your local representative and congressman. Also, you can't compare Goodwill with Damiano or Salvation Army in respect to helping out community, you much compare it to other employment training programs like SVC, Pinewood, and UDAC. Then complain about wages. I'm happy to know that people care enough to talk about it, but it is also important to know all of the information. Not saying that I have it all, but it is some insight into what some people have been talking about.

Dawn

about 3 years ago

I would like to touch on the question/statement "why don’t places like the Damiano Center and the Salvation Army make it just as easy to donate? Businesses are obviously willing to host drop-off sites." Goodwill did have drop off bins like this years ago. The problem with this is that people will throw their trash, unsellable merchandise, and other things that do not belong in the boxes. Also, if you read the post from Triangle Recycling you should note that it creates a large expense to the provider. Places such as the Damiano Center do not have the funding to support such a high cost project. Next I would like to bring up the verbal attack and not so humble opinion in regards to Goodwill. All of the donations that are collected for this agency get processed by individuals with a disability or other barrier to employment. The people that work at Goodwill are working to better their skills and abilities while earning a fair wage with the intent of moving on to bigger and better jobs. Sometimes this is not the case and the individual does not want to leave the job that was supposed to lead them elsewhere. Sometimes people "get comfortable" with the environment, need more accommodations than employers are willing to provide, or for some other reason they just like working at Goodwill. The thing that people need to truly understand is that Goodwill hires people with disabilities and gives them a fair wage for the work they are doing with the hopes of helping them achieve a higher vocational goal. They are a nonprofit organization not "a huge, uber-rich exploitative corporation that makes its profits at the expense of its disabled and underpaid workers." All of the money that Goodwill receives from it's retail stores goes back into programming and pays the wages of the workers not into the pockets of the people that help to run the organization. The wages of these people that help to run the organization are a whole lot less than the wages of individuals in similar positions at other corporations and even within similar nonprofit organizations. Lastly, I would like to comment in regards to "The bins in the area can’t really be doing that much damage to the local organizations." With our uncertain economy people seem to be holding on to their material possessions longer instead of donating them. In addition to other factors, the bins do play a role in the recent lack of donations. This statement reminds me of the mindset of "oh, one cigarette butt on the ground, or one piece of paper not recycled, or one barrel of toxic substance improperly disposed of cannot be causing that much harm to our environment." Think about it.

Metalist

about 3 years ago

Dawn makes some very good points. Although there is a national Goodwill, our Goodwill of Northern Minnesota and Northeastern Wisconsin is headquartered right here in Duluth. It employs all local people and assists all handicapped individuals living in our area. Why should we send our goods elsewhere when they can do so much good right here in our community? Sorry, for me there is no other option.

Claire

about 3 years ago

We take our cast off things -- except for books, we donate books to the Duluth Public Library and to UWS library -- to Goodwill also because we can get a receipt for our records for tax purposes.

greg

about 3 years ago

Thanks for the info, but it's too late. I just brought some shoes over to the box and yes they are misleading because she thought that they we local. it is very handy to have just down the street..and as far a goodwill I believe the some of the clothes there's also goes out of town and they are for profit. The Damiano Center is nonprofit and free to the people ... the best choice.

RuthHenriquez

about 2 years ago

I think there is room in this town for more than a couple of clothing donation outfits. It sounds like Triangle Recycling is working from a green business model--something which many Duluthians stand for. Clothing recycling as a business is an extremely valuable component of moving toward a less consumeristic economic model. The textile industry is the most polluting industry on the planet, when you factor in all inputs. Encouraging re-use of any cloth-related item is very beneficial to our planet's ecology. If people choose to give to Goodwill or Damiano instead, they are free to do that, and more power to them. However, I don't think we need to demonize a business just because it is making a profit doing socially valuable work (recycling) and providing jobs for drivers, sorters, and other people who probably do not have the skills to otherwise compete in this economy.

in.dog.neato

about 2 years ago

I think the main issue at hand here is transparency. At first glance it isn't clear these bins are accepting clothing donations for local organizations, and it's not clear the donations are being sold for a profit. It's also not being made clear the company that owns the bins has no connection to the local economy. By attaching the meme words like "green" and "recycling" the gut reaction is that our donations are going to support local charities and local causes ... which, in the case of these green boxes, is far from the case. They're obviously making an attempt to appeal to our charitable nature ... this isn't too far off from the more recent issues that people are having with Fair Trade. As it turns out, over the long haul, FT isn't as great a deal for farmers and field laborers as it was first made out to be. It's very likely that they're going to run into some issues with this type of business model if they haven't already taken steps to skirt the legalities of their operating status. When in doubt, though ... CHUM and Damiano, and for baby clothes Bethany Crisis Nursery ... or you can simply gift to your neighbors directly.

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