Fargoan Saves Landfill Space By Selling Recycled Clothes Worldwide – InForum

Fargo – Madonna was right: We live in a material world.

But what happens to all that stuff once we’re done with it? What do you do when your daughter is outgrown with her ballerina and ballerina outfits, and your living room curtains no longer match your new color scheme and wants to get rid of the atrocities that helped you win the Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest?

Enter Rolland Elendu of Elendu Textiles, LLC, at Fargo. Roland and his family specialize in taking old, unwanted or piled-up textiles –
One of the most overlooked categories of recyclable materials – and giving it a second life.

Elendu Textiles operates from a 15,000-square-foot cavernous warehouse at 1401 5th Ave. N.

The interior is dominated by a veritable mountain of clothing, perhaps 14 feet high, that contains everything from couch cushions and children’s Halloween costumes to discarded quilting fabrics, jackets, and children’s clothing. On the side, a pile of trash bags containing shoes of every imaginable style, size, color, and brand.

Rolland Elendu stands 14 feet tall

Rolland Elendu of Elendu Textiles, Fargo, stands in front of a veritable mountain of textiles, which will eventually be assembled, loaded into semi-belts, and sold to textile sorters around the world. Although many of these items are made in China, Elendu says they are in demand in his homeland because they tend to be more durable and better made than Chinese-made clothing for African countries.

Tammy Swift / Forum Communications.

Brightly colored bales of pressed jackets, shirts, pants and dresses line one wall. These 1200lb bales will be stacked inside larger white bags for shipping. Once Elendu collected 44,000 pounds of clothing –
Which happens about four times a month –
Rolland and his crew will load them in half and send them around the world.

The vast majority of these clothes, accessories, blankets and linens will be purchased by “textile sorters” around the world, who will sell them to buyers in the market from Poland to Auckland. It can then be purchased, sometimes for pennies, by consumers in other countries.

Everything that is stained or too damaged to be resold will be shipped back to a German company, where it will be shredded, cleaned and reused for carpets, rugs and insulation.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 95% of post-consumer textile waste (PCTW) can be recycled, although we currently dispose of about 85% of PCTW – the equivalent of £21 billion annually. The United States alone is responsible for generating about 11 million tons of textile waste annually, according to the Elendu website.

Unfortunately, the textile recycling business has faced several major hurdles in recent years, from rising shipping costs and labor shortages to an overall decline in recycling amid COVID.

“I don’t know if people are just overwhelmed by COVID and everything is not, but they don’t think much about recycling,” he says.

So Roland hopes to spread the word about this form of under-the-radar recycling. “I think the change we want to see starts with education. If we educate the masses about this issue, they are more likely to become part of the solution because they realize that it affects everyone, including themselves,” says the 30-year-old businessman.

Once people learn about textile recycling, most of them are happy and relieved to know that it is an option. “When people find us, the first thing they say is that they wish they knew all the time we existed because they always felt bad when they had to throw their clothes in the trash, and they know how bad it is for our environment,” he says. .

Recycling clothes is a family affair

Although the Elendu family has been making a living by changing clothes for nearly half a century, they still find surprisingly few people who realize that textiles can live a second life.

The story behind their project began 45 years ago, when Roland’s father, Sylvester Elendo Sr., was living in the Netherlands. After noticing how much clothes were donated to charity, he wondered what happened to the things that weren’t sold. Did it simply end up in landfills?

Before long, Sylvester settled on an idea: He could help provide clothes for underprivileged families for pennies, while also saving perfectly good textiles from being thrown into landfills.

He began buying used textiles and exporting them abroad, selling part of them to wholesale buyers who then sold a lot of clothes at very cheap prices in the local street markets.

He also divided the other part into smaller bales, which he gave to the poor and conflicting families on credit to enable them to create cash flow and raise capital to get them back on their feet.

Today, Sylvester continues his business, traveling between Africa and Europe, while his four sons have made Elendu an international project.

Exterior shot of Elendu Textile, LLC, 1401 5th Ave.  N., Fargo.

Elendu Textile, LLC, 1401 5th Ave. N., Fargo, appears December 29, 2021.

Tammy Swift / Forum Communications.

The four boys attended American schools in their native Nigeria. Early on, Rolland, the middle son, showed the most interest in his father’s business and always envisioned one day being an entrepreneur.

He came to the United States to attend college, and graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead in 2016 with a computer science degree. However, he always knew in the back of his mind that he would follow in his father’s footsteps.

Roland remains the siblings most closely associated with Elendu Textiles, while his siblings work either in advisory positions or as silent partners.

They launched their Fargo base in 2017 at 6,000 square feet and almost immediately grew that facility.

Textile recycling requires a learning curve

Rolland moved operations to the existing building and began working hard educating local organizations and businesses about a concept of recycling that was still largely unfamiliar to most people.

Some of his first partnerships were formed with stores operated by organizations such as the Salvation Army, The Arc, Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, and the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.

Many thrift stores will only keep clothes on their shelves for 21 days because that unyielding volume of clothes is constantly moving through their doors. Some have even had to resort to paying waste management companies to get rid of them, Roland says.

But he says these kinds of partnerships are win-win. Rolland pays these entities anywhere from 3 cents to 5 cents a pound for their unsold merchandise, so instead of paying to get rid of unwanted items, they receive money to help fund important community programs.

The amount of clothing they bring in helps create more cargo so he can keep going.

The overall arrangement reduces solid waste. Since establishing the Fargo Center in 2017, Roland says they have saved 9.6 million pounds of apparel and textiles from loading local landfills.

Rolland Elendu demonstrates a special clothes press that compresses clothes and fabrics into 1100 to 1200 pound bales so they can be shipped.

Rolland Elendu demonstrates a special clothes press that compresses clothes and fabrics into 1100 to 1200 pound bales so they can be shipped.

Tammy Swift / Forum Communications.

However, he says the early years of Operation Elindo in Fargo were rocky. “It was hard to get people to understand that this exists,” he says. “We worked the first three years at a loss, but we are determined to keep going for the recycling. I never got paid for three years, but our perseverance paid off by the fourth year.”

By then, Rowland said he understood the area better, forged partnerships with local thrift stores and was able to pass on the benefits of textile recycling to partners.

In fact, the company was really taking off when it took another hit: COVID-19. Roland says the pandemic years have been tough, especially in terms of worker retention. Recently, it relied on daily labor.

But like a polyester leisure suit that refuses to fray, this stubborn entrepreneur doesn’t give up either. He has already set two ambitious goals for 2022, including a plan to hire long-term employees in March and a push to raise the company’s four truckloads per month to 10.

“I woke up one morning and said, ‘We can’t give up on this. We have to figure that out, so we’d better get our butts into the warehouse and get them out. So here we are. “

Those interested in disposing of a large shipment of clothing or textiles can contact Elendu Textiles by calling (218) 790-7502 or by visiting https://www.elendutextile.com/.

A shrunken Beanie Baby dog ​​lies alone on the covered floor of Elendu Textiles LLC in Fargo.

A lonely deflated Beanie Baby dog ​​lies on the floor of Elendu Textiles warehouse in Fargo. Depending on the circumstances, items like these can be purchased for pennies by a consumer in another country or can be recycled into carpeting or insulation.

Tammy Swift / Forum Communications.

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