How Canadian Towns Are Hoping To Improve Textile Recycling

When thinking about materials that could be recycled, textiles usually do not show up on the list. Various charities have clothing drives in which people donate discarded shirts, pants, and so on. But, as a recent story on the CBC notes, 85 percent of old clothes wind up in landfills. Some towns in Canada are hoping to change that.

One problem is that textiles do not mix well with other recyclables, as they tend to get contaminated if stored with them. Also, textiles exposed to the weather while waiting at curbside can be ruined before they can be collected and reused.

A town called Markham, just north of Toronto, is trying a new approach. In partnership with the Salvation Army, the city is setting up bins in public places where people can deposit used clothing. The Salvation Army picks up the clothing and sorts it for reselling.

However, some articles of clothing are too worn to be resold. These are compacted into 450-kg bales and are sold for their fiber content. Products that can be made out of old clothing include rags, some types of paper, insulation material, and fiber-based products used in industries such as medicine and agriculture. The Salvation Army gets $200 Canadian per bale, which it uses for its services for the less fortunate.

Markham is the first town of any size that has instituted a widespread program for recycling textiles. But, if the initiative proves to be successful, one suspects that other local governments around the world will follow suit.