As part of an ongoing effort to advance circularity and extend the life of donated goods, Goodwill Industries International (GII) and its affiliated member organizations from the United States, Canada, and Finland this month gathered in Rochester, N.Y., for a two-day event on textile circularity. Sixty Goodwill leaders, along with leading edge partners from the textile recycling ecosystem, including Accelerating Circularity, TOMRA, Sortile, and researchers from the Rochester Institute of Technology, participated in the event which featured demonstrations of textile sorting and grading, garment deconstruction, circularity landscape modeling and information about recycling machinery and equipment.

During the event, local Goodwill organizations shared the results of a variety of innovative recycling pilots taking place across the Goodwill network, including updates from those taking part in a textile recycling pilot program funded by the Walmart Foundation. The two-year project is aimed at transforming unwearable donations into raw material for textile recycling. Under the program, Goodwill is partnering with Accelerating Circularity, a leading developer of circular textile supply chains, to establish regional sortation hubs to collect, sort and prepare textiles for reuse and recycling.

“For more than 120 years, Goodwill has been expanding the market for reuse of textiles and other goods. This recent summit underscores Goodwill’s continued commitment to advancing textile circularity by ensuring that we get the highest value out of every item entrusted to us for our planet, our communities, and our people,” said Steve President, GII President and CEO. “With the support of Walmart Foundation and partners from other sectors of the textile circularity ecosystem, we are developing a number of pathways for goods to minimize waste and maximize value through reuse, remanufacturing and recycling.”

“With more than 3,300 stores and donation centers across North America, Goodwill has been a leader in ‘reuse’ for more than a century. As emerging recycling technology scales in the US, Goodwill is uniquely positioned to ensure unwearable cotton and polyester textiles are recycled into new materials fueling that circular textile economy.” said Jennifer Lake, President and CEO of Goodwill of the Finger Lakes, who hosted the event.

Revenue from the sale of donated goods supports job training, placement and other essential services for community members who face obstacles to employment. The value of every item donated to Goodwill stays in local communities. The organization is working on initiatives at the local, regional, and international level to develop additional revenue sources to fund the nonprofit’s vital programs and services.

The Goodwill network’s circularity goals, programs and initiatives extend beyond the Rochester event. This August, GII will host its inaugural Sustainability Summit in Washington DC, which will feature prominent industry speakers and promote further collaboration, learning and action around sustainability.

The Goodwill network plays a critical role in powering the circular economy. The organization operates over 3,300 stores across the Goodwill enterprise in the United States and Canada, with multiple retail channels to keep products in use and out of landfill. In 2023, Goodwill recovered the value of over 4.3 billion pounds of donated products which supported the development of skills training, job placement, career advancement opportunities, and other community-based services for more than 1.7 million people.

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