Goodwill Modernizes the Donation Bin in San Francisco

With a little help from a design firm and a grant from an eco-friendly city, the nonprofit is working to make donating clothes as easy as walking to the lobby of your apartment complex.

Getting rid of old clothes and other textiles can be a pain—especially if you live in a city without a car, far from a facility equipped to handle such materials.

But with a little redesign, a little technology, and a little collaboration, a new Goodwill initiative in San Francisco aims to make it painless for the public to donate textiles. More details:

A major need: The average American throws out 70 pounds of textiles each year,making clothes a huge proportion of the trash thrown into landfills. Having made it a goal to produce zero waste by 2020, the city offered a grant to the San Francisco Apartment Association, a building-owner trade group, and Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties (SFGoodwill) to work on a program devoted to improving the recycling of textiles. (By the way—the recycling isn’t just limited to still-wearable clothes. Worn-out socks and torn tablecloths can be turned into materials such as insulation.) Their solution? A recycling bin with a more friendly design: the goBIN.

Help from an iconic design team: Frog Design, a firm famous for creating Apple’s “Snow White” design language used on early versions of the Macintosh, did the heavy lifting on the design. Speaking to Fast Company, the agency’s creative director, Peter Michaelian, said that the goal was to make the bins more appealing. “The typical public textile donation bin is cold, industrial, dirty, and unpleasant to use,” he explained. “Why not redesign the bin to make it irresistible?” Designed with a large opening, the new goBIN also relies on technology. A QR code on the bin links to a tax donation form, and a sensor lets SFGoodwill know when a bin is full—encouraging efficiency in the pickup process.

The goal: Eventually, SFGoodwill hopes to make using the bins a common part of city life. “We’ll target putting a Goodwill goBIN in every big apartment and condo building in the city within five years to make donating textiles an everyday convenience,” the nonprofit’s CEO, Maureen Sedonaen, said in a statement. “Every shirt, shoe and purse slipped into a goBIN will help us create local job opportunities for the chronically unemployed.” It’s one of many efforts being made on this front: The city is also working with clothing retailers such as H&M to launch recycling awareness programs, Fast Company notes.

(SFGoodwill press photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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