Zero Waste Fashion: Reusing and Recycling Textiles

The numbers are staggering: estimates show that Ontario generates 500,000 tonnes of clothing and textile waste every year and that number is expected to grow rapidly. 

Although most people report donating used textiles to charity for reuse, 85% of used textiles are ending up in the landfill instead. The good news: many people and organizations are working hard to eliminate textile waste at the community and system level.

Textile Recyclers

Most people don’t know it, but the charities and companies that collect and sort reusable clothing also accept un-wearable textiles, such as clothing that is torn, ripped or stained. Textiles get sorted and graded to be sold for reuse here in Canada or to be shipped overseas for reuse. Textiles that aren’t in wearable condition (even single shoes!) are bundled up and sent to textile recyclers in the US to break down the fabrics into their original threads.

Diabetes Canada has donation bins and a door pick up service to reuse and recycle textiles and help the charity raise money for diabetes research and programs. Building managers and superintendents can order a donation bin to make textile diversion as easy as possible for residents in apartments and condos.

Slow Fashion

‘Fast fashion’ is a serious problem: new styles every week, low-quality clothing that stretches or rips after only a few washes and made by exploiting workers in terrible working conditions. Slow fashion is about focusing on simple style, higher quality items, and ethical manufacturing.

Fashion Takes Action celebrates, supports and promotes ethical and sustainable fashion in Canada. Their Design/Forward event awards designers who use an equal balance of fashion and sustainability, creating clothing and accessories that use sustainable materials, recycled or upcycled fabrics, and more. 

City-Wide Change

Reusing and recycling textiles isn't always easy to do, especially for people with busy schedules or without a car to transport their donations.

But the good news is that the City of Toronto's new Long Term Waste Management Strategy includes a commitment to creating a new textile and clothing recycling program for all residents, and would include collecting the stuff that can’t be reused.

Markham’s textile recycling program has saved 1.4 million kg from landfill in less than a year and is catching the attention other municipalities.

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