Helpsy is a for-profit B corporation that wants to change how people think about recycling clothing and other textiles. Established in 2017, it is the largest textile collection company in the northeastern U.S. The company collects clothes, shoes, and various materials for recycling, upcycling, and other reuses, intending to keep clothing out of landfills.
With textile waste accounting for 10% of landfill mass, the need for better clothing reuse has never been more critical. Nearly 85% of clothes end up in the trash, which accounts for 100 pounds of waste per person every year. In fact, 95% of all clothing items are recyclable.
In 2021, Helpsy’s 2,200 donation collection containers collected nearly 30 million pounds of clothes, an equivalent of 320 million pounds of carbon emissions, 20 billion gallons of water used, and the electrical usage of 10,000 American homes.
After collection, Helpsy grades the materials to determine their best use. The lowest-grade items are turned into rags for industrial and commercial use. The company resells the highest-graded items to North American thrift stores or other second-hand markets globally. Some end up on the clothing recycler’s new wholesale website and mobile app, Helpsy Shop, which curates nearly 50,000 high-quality, high-end clothing items. Spending $100 on the shop funds the collection of another 300 pounds of clothes.
“It’s another way we can positively impact our planet and reduce our carbon footprint by engaging consumers around the very real and very important issue of clothing consumption with our new Helpsy Shop site,” said Dan Green, the firm’s chief executive officer and co-founder. “In most homes, it’s the norm to recycle plastics, glass, metal, and paper, but clothes, shoes, and accessories have long been ignored, resulting in textiles accounting for 6% of our landfills.”
Helpsy’s collection bins can be found in high-traffic public areas in eight Northeast states, including Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey, in supermarkets and nonprofits.
The company partners with small towns on collection drives and community engagement. It’s also the official clothing recycler in larger cities such as Boston.
Additionally, the company is working with fashion brands that have struggled with what to do with returns and damaged items.
“We’re starting to engage with those folks, helping them manage damages and returns, which are generally just a drag on their operations,” said Alex Husted, company co-founder. Due to the cost to process and reshelve, many store returns end up as waste. “We’re building the system to get all these things new homes.”
“Helpsy is a perfect triple-bottom-line business. It’s profitable, and it’s good for the community and good for the environment,” he said.