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Video: Clothes recycled worldwide

A North Portland business has been turning rags to riches for 75 years, long before recycling was a common household word.

If you think that you have a lot of clothes in your closet, you should see the American Rag & warehouse 10707 N Lombard Street.

Bundles of used clothing are stacked in bails up to the ceiling of the warehouse. Nothing goes to waste here.

"You would think that this is kind of the end use of it - but, its not," said warehouse manager Joshua Polk. "There's a lot of good use still left in these rags."

The company buys clothes for about three cents a pound from local thrift stores.

"We have a truck load about once every three weeks," said Emil Frederickson, who dropped off clothes through his organization.

The clothes are separated by category, such as cotton, synthetics and flannels. If the clothes can still be worn, they're shipped to buyers overseas. Requests come from customers in China, Pakistan, India and Mexico.

"That's recycled stuff. Just stuff that here in America we would just typically throw away but in a third world country, they can still get a lot of good use out of that stuff," said Polk.

Clothes made of cotton that can't be re-sold as good, usable cloth is laundered and cut into wiping rags. The rags are then sold to customers who work mostly with paint, oil and steel.

Todd Rosenthal's great grandfather started the business in 1931 after he came to Portland from Germany.

"In the old country, you'd collect bottles, rags you name it, and you would trade for that next item and so coming to this country it becomes a business of 'Oh, we're going to recycle clothing and we're now going to sell it to someone else,' " said Rosenthal.

Has it truly been "rags to riches" ever since?

"It's a work in progress. It's a good thing being able to hire people; be able to do a good thing for the environment so that's where we stand," said Rosenthal.

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