Next Lowest Hanging Fruit to Improve Diversion?

Clothing, footwear, towels, bedding, and drapes – all are examples of textiles that may end up landfills once residents are through with them. This despite the availability of drop off bins and thrift stores throughout municipalities. Textile waste is steadily increasing due in large part to trendy, low-cost fashion and home finishing items that make it affordable to buy new and refresh what we have frequently. Recent studies suggest textiles comprise up to 10% of the average residential waste stream (actual rates vary by municipality).

With the inclusion of textiles on the list of designated wastes in O.Reg 386/16: Blue Box Waste under the Waste Diversion Transition Act (2016), it’s timely to consider some of the cost-effective opportunities available to divert this increasing component of the waste stream.

The important news for municipal landfill managers is that the post consumer textile market is growing, and this presents a valuable opportunity to increase waste diversion, cost-effectively.

Market opportunities for post consumer textiles are growing

Market opportunities range from re-use to re-integration into new products. Textiles can be successfully recycled and/or turned into other products such as rags, insulation, and car floor mats.

Dave Douglas of VisionQuest Environmental Strategies Corp. reports ‘textiles have substantial value (in excess of $500 tonne) – even in the face of the China National Sword. There are extensive global markets well beyond China for the material’.

Why consider enhancing or growing the textile recycling program in your municipality?

Municipalities can increase diversion, extend landfill space, and even receive revenue with textile diversion programs, especially for efforts beyond providing collection bins at depots and landfills. Douglas suggests ‘standardized curbside collection integrated into existing municipal collection service, coupled with the use of a certified downstream broker offers a convenient solution to increase textile diversion rates’.

City of Stratford: One Ontario program that’s leading the way


Five per cent of the City of Stratford’s residential waste (~300 tonnes/year) is textile. Kate Simpson, Waste Reduction Coordinator for the City of Stratford, launched a pilot curbside textile collection program in March 2018 with a plan to collect textiles from 12,000 households in the spring and fall. The goal is to capture materials that would otherwise have no option but to go to landfill because they would not be acceptable to a donation program.

Stratford’s first collection in April 2018 yielded 2.2 tonnes of textiles. Coupled with the addition of drop-off bins at strategic locations for ongoing textile diversion, the total collection to date is approximately 4 tonnes.

Partnering for collection and marketing

To launch the pilot, Stratford formed a partnership with Diabetes Canada, a not-for-profit organization that has an established competency in collecting and marketing textiles across Canada.

Diabetes Canada coordinates collection services and manages marketing for Stratford at no cost to the municipality, in return for 100% of the profits. This revenue supports its diabetes-related programs.

“This isn’t costing residents any money, and we are saving landfill space. That alone is a huge gain for the City of Stratford.” Says Simpson. In addition to traditional items, single shoes and socks are welcome as are ripped, torn and stained materials. Items that can’t be resold or reused ‘as is’, are sold, where possible, to companies for use in manufacturing.

According to a recent study on textiles undertaken by a team of students at Trent University, Diabetes Canada only sends 5% of all the materials it collects to landfill.

Interesting in launching your own pilot?

If considering adding textile recycling to your program, Douglas suggests starting with a simple Google search to review company websites to learn more about its practices and key contacts, followed by a tour of their facility(s).

According to Laurie Westaway, who led the Trent University student research project, Step 2 is to ‘issue a request for proposals to find a proven collector and processor with transparent tracking systems that will provide evidence of reliable downstream markets for the materials’.

Dave Douglas notes ‘like OES e-waste tracking, transparency can be established to ensure downstream end markets are being utilized rather than landfill or incineration. This material is simply too valuable to burn’.

Kate Simpson confirms, ‘promoting your collection program is critical to its success. Ensure you get the word out every way possible’. One way Kate did this was via earned media with CTV Kitchener, available here:

CIF seeks textile collection stories

Textiles may well be the next lowest hanging fruit to improve diversion. CIF is aware that several municipalities are approaching it in different ways and we encourage you to share your textile collection stories with CIF staff.

The CIF thanks Kate Simpson, Dave Douglas and Laurie Westaway for sharing their knowledge, experience and research for this blog. If you’re interested in the details, please email them for more information.

Use CNA/OCNA lineage and other tactics for promotions
Textiles are included in O. Reg. 386/16: Blue Box Waste, which designates Blue Box materials under the Waste Diversion Transition Act, 2016. Therefore, inkind CNA/ OCNA lineage is available to promote collection programs for them.

Kate Simpson, City of Stratford
Kate Simpson, City of Stratford