A prominent social entrepreneur from South Florida, Jay Katari, is planning to launch new thrift retail stores across the United States in an attempt to transform the American recycling industry. The dual objective of this effort is to provide used clothes, household products and other items at an affordable cost to low income groups in the country and at the same time, prevent these usable products from filling up the country’s already overflowing landfills.
The U.S. EPA Office of Solid Waste says that on average an American citizen throws away more than 68 pounds of textiles and clothing every year. Clothes and other rejected textile products constitute about four percent of the total municipal solid waste in the country. Jay Katari’s South Florida Textile Recycling, Inc. is determined to change these figures.
Jay Katari’s social enterprise made its humble beginnings in 1998 with the placement of 24 collection bins in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Soon enough, Katari was able to expand the business to other parts of the country. By now, the social enterprise has 10 more clothing collection businesses across a dozen states. It recycles more than 25 million pounds of used clothing and shoes each year.
Katari says, “In a difficult economic climate, when millions of Americans are living at or below the poverty line, second hand clothing allows the less fortunate to purchase brand name quality clothing at a small fraction of the regular retail price, we have employees all around the country supporting our recycling operations and giving a new life to used clothing.”
The company places recycling containers at convenient points such as parking lots in order to encourage consumers to recycle. All the recyclable products thus collected are processed and sold by thrift and second hand clothing stores. Katari’s social enterprise opened its first 45,000 sq ft retail store in Winston Salem, NC. Since then it has opened eight more stores in Texas, Florida and North Carolina, with plans to add at least three more stores each year.
Katari explains: “Most of us don’t fully understand the environmental impact of the clothes we wear every day. The cost and labor of manufacturing, the raw materials, transportation and washing, all take a toll on the environment. We are helping to reduce our environmental footprint and make life a little better for those less fortunate than us.”
Photo Credit: iprole
Vikas is a staff writer for the Sustainable Development news and editorial section on Justmeans. He is an MBA with 20 years of managerial and entrepreneurial experience and global travel. He is the author of “The Power of Money” (Scholars, 2003), a book that presents a revolutionary monetary economic theory on poverty alleviation in the developing world. Vikas is also the official writer for an international social project for developing nations “Decisions for Life” run in collaboration between the ILO, the University of Amsterdam and the Indian Institute of Management.