Dropping and Swapping in Vermont

BARRE, VT. - The Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District (CVSWMD) has found a way to give back to the community while diverting waste from the landfill. Since 1993, this union municipality serving 60,000 residents has held a semi-annual Clothing Drop and Swap event where landfill-bound clothing is reused or recycled.

During the three-day event last April, the district collected more than 67 tons of clothing from 1,100 donors. Of that amount, approximately 59.7 tons were redistributed to more than 1,350 attendees. The rest was recycled.

"Many towns offer residents opportunities to recycle clothing," says John Kords, a district spokesperson. "Most, however, do not offer the additional opportunity for people to take clothing."

Relying on a facility donated by the city of Barre, an event co-sponsor, and on more than 100 community and corporate volunteers, the district is able to defray an estimated $8,758 for labor, space, food, cardboard hauling and clothing hauling.

Operations for each Drop and Swap are consistent, Kords says. Before the event, the auditorium is set up with tables and signs, and a trailer is placed outside the auditorium's entrance for rags and unusable clothing. On the first day, residents drop off items - which are sorted into categories such as "men," "women," "children" and "linen" - from noon to 7 p.m.

Volunteers sort through the bags and display reusable items on tables. Due to the high volume of clothes dropped off, volunteers continue to sort throughout the event, restocking the tables.

On the following two days, the district stages the event's "give-away" portion where residents are invited to take as much clothing as they want. April marked the first time that non-district residents were charged $5 to attend the give-away, and the district accrued $365 from the fees.

After the event, any usable clothing is brokered or donated, and anything deemed to be unwearable is shipped to textile industry fiber recyclers.

Volunteers saved CVSWMD approximately $4,458 (based on a $7.43 hourly wage), and the district spent only $1,500 to pay staff members to work the event. Local haulers chipped in by donating the cardboard and hauling the clothing - services which the district estimates would have had a $1,850 price tag.

Advertising was the budget-bending culprit. In addition to free public service announcements in newspapers, radio and cable television, the district placed $1,450 into paid advertisements - an amount that can be scaled back to keep within the budget.

For information on starting a community Clothing Drop and Swap, contact the CVSWMD at (802) 479-4363.