Word on the Street: Fresno's Neighborhood Industries recycles clothes into new products (video)

The Fresno BeeJune 8, 2014 

The people at Neighborhood Industries like to say they create wealth from waste.

That just got a little easier to do with a new warehouse and the streamlining of a clothing recycling program that turns clothing headed for the trash into carpet padding, insulation and other products.

The Neighborhood Thrift shop operates at 353 Olive Ave., but the store and its behind-the-scenes recycling program also double as a job-training program employing between 30 and 40 people. Most are on government assistance and get training and work experience by working there, overcoming barriers to jobs such as long gaps on their resumes.

The bustling Neighborhood Recycling operation has outgrown the 4,000-square-foot Olive Avenue building. It will soon move to a 27,000-square-foot warehouse on Thorne Avenue near Roeding Park. It will consolidate an existing 15,000-square-foot warehouse used for storage into the new place.

Workers in the recycling part of the nonprofit organization sort massive piles of stained, ripped or otherwise unusable clothing, pillows and blankets donated to Neighborhood Thrift. Neighborhood Recycling also buys materials from 42 other Valley thrift shops. Workers stuff it into a baler, a giant machine that compacts 1,000 pounds of clothing into a wire-wrapped bale that can be easily shipped.

From there it's sold to companies who turn it into carpet pads, car door insulation, oil filters and rags used by mechanics, said Neighborhood Industries manager Bryan Feil.

He encourages the public to bring in old clothing instead of throwing it away.

"Don't think that it's just discards. You can bring it to Neighborhood Thrift and we can recycle it for you," he said. "It's an income generator."

The operation keeps 75,000 pounds of clothing a month out of landfills. Streamlining the recycling may allow it to hire one or two more workers by the end of the year.

Enzo honored

Enzo Olive Co., one of the San Joaquin Valley's leading olive oil makers, has garnered lots of attention since it began producing extra virgin olive oil in 2011.

To date, the company's oils have earned 39 awards. And the accolades keep coming.

The Clovis-based company won two awards at the prestigious New York International Olive Oil Competition in April. Oil made from the mild-tasting Arbequina variety of olives won best of class and oil from the bolder-tasting Koroneiki olive earned a silver.

A panel of international experts tastes nearly 700 extra virgin olive oils from around the globe to honor the best olive oils in the world.

Enzo is operated by the Ricchiuti family, owners of P-R Farms and Bella Frutta, a fruit stand at Willow and Shepherd avenues in Clovis.

To top it off, the company was spotlighted in a recent New York Times food column.

Enzo olive oil can be bought at Bella Frutta, Williams-Sonoma stores and through its website, http://enzooliveoil.com.

Bethany Clough and Robert Rodriguez contributed to Word on the Street. It was compiled by Clough. The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6431, bclough@fresnobee.com or @BethanyClough on Twitter.

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