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At first glance, we might think other living things sure waste a lot: Every year, plants and animals throw around flowers, leaves, seeds, shells and spores left and right. But of course nothing really is wasted. Nature’s leftovers become food and support for the ecosystem around them. Life’s building blocks cycle through plant, animal, fungi and microbe. Even rock gets recycled.

NWA Recycles’ guiding vision is to make the economy of Northwest Arkansas more like this – in other words, more circular.

In a circular economy, the materials that flow into products and services you use every day are then re-collected, reused and remade. Our local economy, on the whole, is linear. We buy things, use things, throw things away in the trash, and that stuff’s useful life ends. But that’s not always the case. Several smaller circular economies have already taken root.

In our NWA’s Circular Economies series, we’ll highlight examples of local businesses and initiatives that not only collect recyclable materials but also put them to use here in Northwest Arkansas.

Northwest Rags

Painters, restaurant workers, automotive shops and other industries all need good rags for their work, and many get them from Northwest Rags in Springdale. Northwest Rags gets used clothing from local thrift stores and the public’s donations, bales some textiles for resale to overseas disaster zones and chops other old clothes into insulation and a variety of industrial cloths.

The Brock family started Northwest Rags two decades ago to catch used jeans that would otherwise get trashed. They’ve since expanded their operations to include other fabrics that can be put to at least one more purpose before getting thrown away.

“We can do our part to try to keep that out of the landfill and meet a need rather than dumping it for no reason,” owner Vance Brock said.

Why should I recycle clothing?

Americans trash millions of tons of textiles each year, recycling or reusing only a small portion. Besides stretching out finite landfill space, reusing them instead can conserve some of the energy, water and other resources needed to grow cotton, create synthetic fibers or dye fabrics.

How do I recycle clothing?

If you have old clothes in decent condition – dry and non-mildewed – you can donate them for Northwest Rags at 418 E. Center Ave., Springdale. Find more information here. You can also bring textile items to your local reuse store, such as Goodwill.

Public recyclers that accept textiles, such as Boston Mountain Solid Waste District in Washington and Madison counties, typically bring them to Northwest Rags or similar end markets after you drop them off. They provide these drop-off options for clothing:

  • Bella Vista: Bella Vista Recycling Center at 400 Pinion Bluff Drive, open 24 hours every day but Sunday.
  • Goshen: 244 Clark St., by the Community Center, 9 a.m. to noon on the third Saturday of the month.
  • Prairie Grove: 11398 Bond Road, open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday.
  • Huntsville: 173 Madison 6553, open 8 a.m. to 3:50 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. Saturday.