Main Liners Can Now Text for Recycling Pickup

Ah, the conveniences of living in the western ’burbs. But don’t worry, Philly — a pilot program might be launching here soon.

Don’t want that old VCR? Don’t put it in the trash. Just stick it on your front steps.

Here in Philly, when we want to recycle electronics, we’re supposed to drop them off at inconveniently located recycling centers operated by the city — a city which, it turns out, has been doing a really bad job at managing the financial end of its recycling program. But on the Main Line, well, things are a lot more convenient.

Photo of flyer distributed in Lower Merion Township. (Courtesy Karen Ebbert)

Lower Merion Township, which includes some of the priciest real estate in the region, set in communities like Gladwyne, Villanova, and Penn Wynne, has launched a new recycling program that allows residents to recycle old clothing or electronics by sending a quick text message.

It’s simple.

You text the word “pickup” to 610-723-8177, you’re asked to enter your street address, and then pickup is scheduled. You can also choose to send photos of the items you need picked up — this step is optional — but if you include photos, you can accrue rewards over time such as Amazon gift cards.

Residents can opt to just leave the goods on their doorstep or, in the case of old electronics which might contain sensitive or personal information (but, really, you should wipe this stuff clean before you get rid of it!), you can request a door knock. Otherwise, you don’t need to be home for pickup. Typically, pickup is free, but in the case of certain electronics, a fee may be assessed.

The new program is the result of a partnership between Lower Merion Township and Curb My Clutter, the company that makes it all happen. The idea here is that townships like Lower Merion spend a lot of taxpayer money hauling unwanted clothes and electronics to the landfill, when there’s actually a moneymaking opportunity in reselling those items. Old computers can get refurbished. The clothes that don’t fit you anymore will fit somebody else just fine.

“Our whole mission is to return these goods back into productivity,” says Curb My Clutter’s Bob Anderson, a Bucks County resident who has spent the last 30 years working in the solid waste and recycling industry in the area. “85 percent of all clothing winds up in a landfill. Before, I didn’t even realize that people threw clothes away. I thought they just donated them!”

Anderson explains that it’s hard to get traditional investment interest in endeavors like Curb My Clutter. After all, can you imagine pitching some hedge fund guys on bags of old clothes? So Curb My Clutter turned to the New York-based Closed Loop Ventures, which is all about investing in sustainable consumer goods, recycling and the circular economy.

“Closed Loop Ventures is incubating and backing us,” says Anderson. “So we have the resources we need to make the program successful.”

Woolwich Township in South Jersey was the first municipality in the country to adopt the Curb My Clutter program, beginning earlier this year. Since then, the company says that it has diverted more than 10,000 pounds of clothing and electronics from Woolwich’s landfills.

And Philly, don’t count yourself out just yet. Anderson says that Curb My Clutter is in talks with the city to launch a pilot program here. Of the 500,000 tons of trash that the city generates each year, Anderson says that six percent of it is clothing. And in that six percent, he sees a lot of money and opportunity.