Vinnies rags are a tool of the trade for Peter Hanson and Mark Andrews at Lismore Nissan & Kia.
Vinnies rags are a tool of the trade for Peter Hanson and Mark Andrews at Lismore Nissan & Kia. Jacklyn Wagner

Vinnies cleans up on recycled rags

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 was an inspiration for ex-alcoholics worldwide.

 

SCU Art and Design lecturer Darren Bryant with final year visual arts student Brooklyn Winter and 3rd year arts & design student Georgia Gordon.
SCU Art and Design lecturer Darren Bryant with final year visual arts student Brooklyn Winter and 3rd year arts & design student Georgia Gordon. Jacklyn Wagner

"We're the largest such facility in regional NSW, handling one-fifth of the state's total clothing donations," Vinnies recycling and waste manager Angelo Grande said.

He explains while the pick of the donations are sold in Vinnies bargain shops, the lesser quality wearables are exported and the remainder turned into usable rags.

"It's the ultimate recycling operation," he said, adding that his team of twenty remove all buttons and zippers and then blade-shreds the rags for compacting into packs weighing from 5kg up to 200kg pallets.

 

McKeeCo General Engineering workshop machinist Dave Buchan and welder John Magner.
McKeeCo General Engineering workshop machinist Dave Buchan and welder John Magner. Jacklyn Wagner

Materials are mixed cotton, flannelette, cotton t-shirt and the top of the range, white cotton, that retails for $16 per 5kg pack.

Long-time users like Lismore's McKeeCo General Engineering and Lismore Nissan and Kia speak highly about the humble product that supports local workers as well helping Vinnies community projects and local people doing it tough.

SCU's artists are other 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.

Learning of SCU's rag usage, a far cry from wiping grease off industrial equipment (McKees) or cleaning sump oil from serviced vehicles (Lismore Nissan & Kia), Mr Grande said: "This really is breathing new life into unwanted materials, and importantly it is reducing the flow of waste going to landfill".

He estimates each year the factory despatches 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' and I reckon we're putting that commitment into practice, truckload by truckload."

 

Recycling and waste manager Angelo Grande with rag cutter Kaylene Rugendyke.
Recycling and waste manager Angelo Grande with rag cutter Kaylene Rugendyke. Jacklyn Wagner