Upper Arlington News

UA grad seeks curbside recycling for textiles

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After developing a concept to increase the reuse of otherwise discarded clothing materials, an Upper Arlington High School graduate has proposed a local, curbside recycle program for textiles.

During her senior year at UAHS in 2012-13, Casey Ivanovich chose to examine how clothing and textile production industries promote sustainability, and she sought to improve lives by promoting recycling of clothing and textiles.

This fall, Ivanovich will enter her sophomore year at Princeton University and she's still working to implement what was her high school capstone project and its principles in Upper Arlington.

"We had hoped to implement the pilot before I headed off for school in August of 2013, but we faced roadblocks that set us back a few months," Ivanovich said.

"After getting so close to reaching my goal, abandoning the effort simply because I wasn't present in the city seemed almost unethical."

Ivanovich brought her plans to Upper Arlington City Council Aug. 18, when she asked city officials to partner with Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio to establish a curbside recycling program for textiles.

The idea, according to Ivanovich and Lawrence Hendrix, Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio business development and product manager, would entail having Volunteers of America trucks and personnel pick up discarded clothing and other textile materials from the curbs at residences on the same day those households have their trash collected.

"The main goal of this project is to make the overall collection of textiles a little more regulated," said Ivanovich, who added that old T-shirts and towels can be broken down and made into usable products for people in need.

Hendrix said Volunteers of America already collects curbside donations in Upper Arlington on a monthly basis, but Ivanovich's proposal could increase convenience for residents and provide greater returns for those who can benefit from recycled textiles.

"We're already generating about 20 pounds a month from Upper Arlington, and about 50 percent (of residents) say they missed (the donation date)," he said. "We know by standardizing, we can increase the rates.

"We're going to be here anyway. (A textile's) useful life is being extended greatly and it's not going into our trash cans, our landfills."

Ivanovich had worked toward a pilot textile recycling program in Upper Arlington with former Assistant City Manager Joe Valentino; city officials still must sign off on the plan before it's established.

During the Aug. 18 conference session, Councilmen John C. Adams and Kip Greenhill -- who was UAHS principal while Ivanovich attended the school -- indicated support.

"This is a terrific idea," Adams said.

Others, however, such as Councilwoman Debbie Johnson, said they had concerns about unintended problems that might arise by placing additional items on neighborhood curbs.

"You can call me a snob if you want, but I'm a little concerned about more scavengers coming into the community," Johnson said.

City Attorney Jeanine Hummer noted the city does have laws to address thefts and scavengers, but Johnson said she wanted to hear from law enforcement officials to determine if the textile program might increase calls for theft- and scavenger-related service.

City Manager Ted Staton said his office would work to get more information about how the program might work, how residents could participate and other issues, including the impact the program might have on local police, before making a recommendation to council.

Ivanovich later said she's hopeful the city will allow the program as soon as possible.

She also noted that new organizations, including Goodwill, have expressed interest in joining the effort, and she is taking time to analyze those inquiries.

"We hoped we would be able to begin the first month of collection in October or November," she said. "However, due to new interests in collaboration being expressed by other charitable organizations in the area, we will have to edit our deadline.

"We are happy to devote more time to exploring our options in terms of clothing collection. It is much more important to build a strong pilot now than to implement it quickly."

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