Friday, January 12, 2024

Apparel Impact bins aim to recycle textile waste from Windham

By Ed Pierce

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American consumer throws away more than 81.5 pounds of unwanted clothing every year resulting an estimated 17 million tons of textile waste entering U.S. landfills every year. It’s an environmental nightmare that does have a solution and Joe Whitten’s for-profit company, Apparel Impact, has arrived in Windham and is addressing the problem one town at a time.

Apparel Impact, which diverted 10 million pounds of
textiles from landfills in New England last year, is 
expanding into Windham and aims to help resolve
textile waste problems through recycling and giving
away to nonprofit organizations in the community.
Last year alone Apparel Impact diverted 10 million pounds of textiles from landfills in New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York for recycling and Whitten continues to expand his business to help resolve the textile waste problem.

“I was in software business development for many years but searching for an industry that I felt made both an environmental and community impact,” Whitten said. “When I was told about textile recycling, I did research on the industry and learned that in many ways it could improve. I felt that it was a perfect industry to enter and make a difference. “It can take up to three generations for a non-biodegradable T-shirt to decompose in a landfill. That means any clothing made of polyester, rayon, spandex, or nylon.”

Whitten said that nearly 80 percent of all clothing, shoes, and accessories across the U.S. are thrown out and enter the waste stream. Apparel Impact provides people the opportunity to recycle their clothing instead of throwing it out.

“We provide easily accessible recycling bins across New England and New York that give people the opportunity to see their clothing, reused, upcycled, or downcycled,” he said. “Aside from our primary mission of being a clothing reuse and clothing recycler, we also have an entire division dedicated to providing free clothing to those most in need within the communities we provide service to. In 2023, we provided clothing, shoes, and other resources to over 4,000 people and families.”

Apparel Impact is known for providing more clothing than any other for-profit or non-profit in New England, Whitten said.

“All of the schools that host Apparel Impact bins have access to an outreach link where they can request needed items for students,” he said. “As we grow in Windham, we hope to expand our reach within Windham schools and the surrounding towns. “We are launching the first-ever educational comic-book, Team Impact! It's an entertaining comic-book that involves educating kids on textile waste while also providing great stories of Team Impact superheroes. It comes with a Lesson Plan and Teachers guide as well.”

The expansion into Windham includes partners in Apparel Impact’s efforts to divert textile waste and provide community support.

Current partners have recycling bins at Shaw's Plaza, 770 Roosevelt Trail in Windham; Rustler’s Steakhouse, 61 Tandberg Trail in Windham; Maine’s Auto Connection, 653 Roosevelt Trail in Windham; and at Windham Community Park, 363 Gray Road in Windham.

“We service all of our sites a minimum of once weekly, but the majority of the sites in and around Windham are serviced two to five times weekly,” Whitten said. “We view any business, non-profit, school, government entity or municipality that hosts Apparel Impact bins as our partner. We have nearly 1,200 partners and will approach 1,500 by the end of 2024. These partners are essential to divert as many textiles as possible because they provide the space to locate an Apparel Impact recycling bin, which offers people the opportunity to use it.”

The company accepts all clothing, shoes, accessories, and household linens and has an Acceptable Items List available on its website at that is always updated and available.

“Being veteran-owned and partnering with and supporting veterans' organizations is essential to Apparel Impact's mission,” Whitten said. “We are partners with Windham Veterans Center and are currently looking to partner with the American Legion in Windham as well. Our mission is simple. We exist to divert textiles from landfills, support those in need and to continue our efforts in spreading the word on who we are and what we do.”

He says the majority of local, county, and state officials are excited about Apparel Impact's services within Maine.

“Textiles are the fastest-growing waste stream in America, and the need to divert the waste and instead focus on reuse and recycling is at an all-time high,” Whitten said. “We've saved Maine taxpayers over $300,000 in 2023 alone, diverted nearly 4 million pounds of textiles from Maine, and provided hundreds of people with much-needed clothing.”

Some clothing, shoes and other textiles collected by Apparel Impact are given to U.S. non-profit organizations, clothing graders or clothing recyclers that are looking to use these items as a way to fund their causes and to help their communities. Some materials are sent to foreign marketplaces where families can buy, sell and trade to support their families. We also provide our own local outreaches to support local families and people in need.

“We're a family owned, veteran-owned, local business, so word of mouth and personal connections are essential,” Whitten said. “The public can assist in two ways; they can use the Apparel Impact bins to help divert waste and provide community outreach and they can contact us if they know of a public location that may be suitable to host an Apparel Impact bin.”

To learn more about Apparel Impact and the difference it is making across New England and beyond, visit <

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