We have all been there: we dutifully pack up the jeans that we haven’t worn in years and other items that have lived in our closets for years and promise to take them to Goodwill. For me, the nearest location is 3 subway stops from my house. The last thing I want to do is drag a hulking bag of clothing down into the subway and back out again. Sadly, most of my donations end up being trashed.
Turns out, I’m not alone. Most unwanted clothing in the United States gets thrown in the trash. According to The Atlantic, Americans buy five times as much clothing as they did in 1980, and textile trash grew by 40 percent from 1999 to 2009. Americans recycle or donate only 15 percent of clothing, and in turn 10.5 million tons of textiles a year end up in landfills. This makes textiles one of the least recyclable materials that are reusable, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Less than 16 percent of the more than 14 million tons of textile waste was recycled in 2014.
Users of the mobile application in more than fifty US cities opened the application to find a new “GIVE” option, available only on May 2. Customers could use the feature to summon an SUV to pick up bagged clothes, which they took to the nearest Goodwill, free of charge.
In addition to major US cities where Uber has a large presence, the spring cleaning initiative was in cities such as Detroit, Dallas, Denver, and Miami, among others. The nationwide promotion between Uber and Goodwill was built off a previous successful spring cleaning initiative in New York last year, and another clothing drive in Boston and San Francisco last fall.
There were some hiccups. For example, a few of my friends reported that they kept getting, “No cars available,” messages. Also, Uber didn’t take full advantage of their social media resources to promote the initiative – most learned about it at the last minute via traditional media.
All that aside, I still believe the idea is a great one. Uber has huge brand awareness and resources that greatly benefit Goodwill and the initiative makes it fairly simple for people to give. I would love to see the likes of Blue Apron and Nature Box provide similar services. Imagine being able to donate your weekly box instead of, ‘skipping’ it?! #Awesome.