A new business is spreading out across the Bay Area. USAgain is a for-profit venture designed to get clothing out of landfills and into thrift shops, or when that’s impossible, to recycle the fibers used to make the clothing. Green and white drop boxes have already popped up in Los Gatos, Sunnyvale, and Mountain View, and dozens more will blanket the Bay Area over the coming months.

The idea behind the business is that people tend to buy clothing and then toss it out, even though they have hardly worn it at all. They believe that clothing is just like plastic, paper, glass, and aluminum. It can be used again and again, if not by you then by someone else, and even when its threadbare, the threads are worth something too. The answer, they believe, is recycling. According to their website, they’ve already recycled 367 million articles of clothing (54 million pounds), saving almost 2 million cubic yards in landfills across the country.

Sounds good so far. But there are some questions that are being asked. For example, the website also encourages schools to conduct clothing drives, and even promises to pay a set amount for every pound of clothing collected. While that sounds good, should schools be helping for-profit businesses by collecting resources for them—and for USAgain, used clothing is a reusable resource?

Then there is the bed bug question. While bed bugs haven’t infested the Bay Area with the same intensity that they have New York and Philadelphia (both cities with extensive USAgain activity), could unexamined second-hand clothing be a carrier of the bugs, especially to less financially stable areas, where people are more likely to buy at thrift shops. If bed bugs can infest Abercrombie and Fitch, they can just as easily infest Goodwill.

USAgain says that, “You don’t have to be a non-profit to do good.” That is certainly true. But at the same time, you don’t have to be a for-profit to do harm.
Read More at KCBS.