Big Brothers Big Sisters blame decline in donations to for-profit recyclers

Big Brothers Big Sisters blame decline in donations to for-profit recyclers

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Representatives from the nonprofit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island say they’re seeing a slight decline in collections, and are blaming it on the influx of for-profit recycling services.

The Breeze reported last October after representatives from the organization warned that the arrival of Simple Recycling and its textile recycling program featuring pink bags for curbside collection in North Providence could hurt their bottom line.

The group now says the addition of such services in North Providence, Bristol, Coventry, Middletown and West Warwick is beginning to have an impact on collections and the more than 30 nonprofits throughout Rhode Island that BBBS partners with.

North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi said he sympathizes with the group, and is happy to chat with them again about challenges. He said he met with them last year as the pink bag program was beginning and answered concerns by finding additional locations for their drop-off locations in town.

Lombardi said he doesn’t know how much action Simple Recycling’s program has gotten in North Providence. A representative for Simple Recycling did not respond to a request for comment this week.

Lombardi said Big Brothers Big Sisters does a great job, which is why he and organizers of his annual winter ball give the nonprofit a donation each year.

His job, said Lombardi, is to encourage people to make sure items are staying out of the landfill, whether someone is reusing clothes or giving them away. That’s what Simple Recycling’s program does.

Representatives from Big Brothers Big Sisters say they also are successful in keeping 8.4 million pounds of textiles and household goods out of the landfill each year, free of charge to the community. They note that they too offer curbside pickup and maintain more than 100 donation bins and four drop-off centers.

“This is of great importance for our agency as it is the lifeblood for our local youth mentoring programs,” said George Evans Marley, director of development and community relations for the organization.

“We have offered free home pickups to Rhode Island residents for more than 20 years,” said BBBSRI Executive Director Katje Afonseca. “It is surprising to see for-profit companies both in our state and from out of state who are just beginning to offer home picks-ups state that this is a new service to Rhode Islanders.”

BBBSRI partners with Savers, selling items to the secondhand store and using the money to cover the overhead of running the nonprofit. That means direct monetary donations go directly to the organization’s work of providing mentors to the youth of Rhode Island. Visit for more.