Region of Peel Proposes Curbside Textile Recycling Program

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The Region of Peel, immediately west of Toronto, has proposed a region-wide program for residential curbside pick-up of textiles for recycling.

According to Peel Public Works, more than 7,700 tonnes of textiles are thrown out in Peel every year. If the curbside collection program is implemented, Regional officials estimate that more than 1,400 tonnes of materials could be collected for re-use annually with the remainder potentially being recycled.

If approved by Peel Regional Council (made up of elected officials from Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon), used textiles such as clothing, towels, and linens would be picked up on a regular basis with the aid of a registered charity partner.

Region of Peel Textile Collection Bin

Between 2017 and 2019, the region worked with The Kidney Foundation, Talize and Diabetes Canada to collect 22 tonnes of used textiles from 21,000 homes, as part of a curbside collection pilot.

More than 100 registered charities in Canada collect, redistribute and resell textiles. Many of the charities rely on individuals donating clothing directly at the store or at a collection bin.

Charities that collect donated clothing typically offer for sale about half of what they collect. Of what is displayed for sale, only about half of that will actually sell. At the Salvation Army, clothes have four weeks to sell before they’re replaced by the next wave of donations, according to Tonny Colyn, the national donations manager in Canada for the charitable organization.

Other Municipal Initiatives

In April, 2017, the City of Markham (north of Toronto) became the first municipality in North America ban textile waste at the curb. In 2018, the City of Markham, Ontario launched a textile recycling pilot project partially funded by a grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Under the pilot, the city placed over 100 bins at city facilities and multi-residential properties. The ‘smart bins’ tracked the amount of textiles being donated for data-collection purposes and also sent out signals telling the city when they need to be serviced. The textiles that were collected were sorted for resale at charities or re-purposed into industrial rags, furniture padding, insulation, car seats and recycled fabrics.

As part of the pilot program, the City of Markham prepared a brochure to educate residents about the textile recycling program and what items were acceptable in the collection bins.

Used Textile Statistics

According to the Recycling Council of Ontario, the average Canadian purchase 70 new clothing items per per. In Ontario, according to the Toronto Environmental Alliance, 85% of the 500,000 tonnes of used textiles generated per year end up in landfills.   According to a waste audit conducted in Nova Scotia, textiles accounted for 10 per cent of the residential waste stream and 11.5 per cent of the industrial stream .

Recycling Textiles

The challenge with recycling textiles is that clothing is a mixture of natural and synthetic fibers. The recycling process is different depending on the material.

For textiles made from natural materials (i.e., cotton or wool), the typical recycling process involves the following steps:

  • The incoming unwearable material is sorted by type of material and color. Color sorting results in a fabric that does not need to be re-dyed. The color sorting means no re-dying is required, saving energy and avoiding pollutants.
  • Textiles are pulled into fibers or shredded, sometimes introducing other fibers into the yarn. .
  • The yarn is cleaned and mixed through a carding process.
  • The yarn is re-spun and ready for subsequent use in weaving or knitting. 
  • Fibers can also be compressed for textile filling such as in mattresses.

If the textiles are synthetic, recycling typically involves In the case of polyester-based textiles, garments are shredded and then granulated for processing into polyester chips. These are subsequently melted and used to create new fibers for use in new polyester fabrics.