Hey, don’t throw away that shirt – bale it | AspenTimes.com

Hey, don’t throw away that shirt – bale it

Contributed photoExcess clothing donated to some of the thrift shops in the Roaring Fork Valley are getting compacted by this baler, which produces bales weighing between 1,000 and 1,200 pounds. They are then hauled to a distribution center, where they are sorted and shipping to needy people.

BASALT – Some of the best second-hand clothing in the nation from Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley is ending up in the hands of needy people rather than rotting in landfills, thanks to a new endeavor by the Basalt Thrift Store.

Earlier this year, Steve Jundt and Julia Pratt, co-founders of the nonprofit entity, felt like they were failing in one aspect of their mission to recycle virtually everything used in day-to-day living. Thrift stores typically get overwhelmed with clothing contributions, Jundt said. They display the best of the clothes on the floor and constantly rotate the inventory to keep shoppers’ interest.

Inevitably, that leaves a lot of clothing that cannot be used, Jundt said, and throwing the excess away is often the only option.

“That gave us a big ouch,” Jundt said.

So in April they decided to try to do something about it. They rented warehouse space near Glenwood Springs and started packing and shipping excess clothing from their shop and nine other thrift stores from around western Colorado, from Edwards to Paonia.

While that was progress, it still was a logistical battle because clothing is so bulky and tough to transport efficiently. In September, the thrift store bought a baler that compresses the clothes into 1,000- to 1,200-pound cubes but doesn’t destroy them. Transport is much more cost-effective because the clothing is so greatly compacted, Jundt said.

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The thrift store’s warehouse uses a fork lift to load up to 40,000 pounds of clothing, shoes, belts, purses and backpacks into semi-trailers that deliver the loads to distribution centers in cities such as Houston. There, they are sorted and prepared for overseas delivery, Jundt said. Loads headed to Central America, for example, are purged of sweaters.

About 80,000 pounds of textiles get hauled each month. So far, Basalt Thrift Store has shipped between 240,000 and 300,000 pounds of clothing, Jundt said.

Officials with the distributors he works with call the loads from the Roaring Fork Valley “some of the best clothing in the nation,” Jundt said. “It all starts in the thrift stores.”

Jundt said customers of the Basalt Thrift Store who are aware of the program appreciate the peace of mind knowing that the clothes they are donating will definitely go to a good cause.

“If we can’t sell it, it’s going to someone who’s going to put it on,” Jundt said.

He sees plenty of room for expansion of the effort because virtually everyone wants to see “usable” clothing put to good use, if there is a way. “We live in a throw-away nation,” Jundt said.

Basalt Thrift Store depends on volunteers to help bale clothes twice a month. Eventually, they want to expand the effort and hire workers for the textile recycling.

Basalt Thrift Store was opened in July 2008 by Jundt and Pratt, a husband-and-wife team. After paying business expenses, the funds generated go toward building greenhouses and other projects promoting agricultural sustainability. Their funding helped back a greenhouse at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale.

The Basalt store is located at 180 Southside Drive, the road south from Big O Tires.

scondon@aspentimes.com