Whatever the purpose, from polishing cars and high-class furniture, to mopping up paint or grease in workshops, or cleaning valuable plates used in print-making, recycled rags made from donated clothing are prized by North Coast businesses.
Marketed as ‘Vinnies Bag O Rags’, they are also an important fundraising source for St Vincent de Paul Society, which processes and packs huge quantities of them in its clothing recycling centre in Goonellabah.
The 1600-square metre centre is named after Matthew Talbot, a 19th century Dublin ascetic who is an inspiration for ex-alcoholics worldwide.
“We’re the largest such facility in regional NSW, handling one-fifth of the state’s total clothing donations,” says Vinnies recycling and waste manager Angelo Grande.
He explained that while the pick of the donations were sold in Vinnies bargain shops, the lesser quality wearables were exported and the remainder turned into usable rags.
“It’s the ultimate recycling operation,” Angelo said, adding that his team of twenty remove all buttons and zippers.
Materials are mixed cotton, flannelette, cotton t-shirt and the top of the range, white cotton, that retails for $16 per 5kg pack.
Apart from local businesses, Southern Cross University artists are also rag fans, using the pure cotton on easily damaged copper plates as well as cutting up rags, wetting and beating them into pulp, and making special paper that students use in their printmaking.
“This really is breathing new life into unwanted materials, and importantly it is reducing the flow of waste going to landfill,” Angelo said.
He estimates that each year the factory dispatches several hundred tonnes of compressed rag packs to both end-users and the 28 Vinnies shops around the North Coast where they are stocked.
“We believe there’s no such word as ‘waste’,” Angelo quips, “and I reckon we’re putting that commitment into practice, truckload by truckload.”
Angelo can be contacted for orders and inquiries on 0438 832 527.