Damaged clothing seeks new life

While cleaning the household’s closets, we came across torn pants, stained sweaters, and torn socks. Clothing deemed too worn to give away to friends or the thrift store. Are these pieces doomed to end up in the black bin? What are the other options? The press investigated the problem.

Posted yesterday at 11am

Veronique Larocque

Veronique Larocque
The press

Limited Solutions

“If the garment is out of good condition, if it can’t be repaired, frankly, the options for consumers are limited,” states Sophie Langlois Blouin, vice president, conducting operations, at Recyc-Quebec. “Right now we mainly have companies that are working on textile reuse, for example thrift shops,” she continues. However, because they receive large quantities of clothing, they often prefer “items in better condition that are easier to resell”. Many thrift stores will only accept donations that are not damaged or stained. In short, pieces that we would give to friends without hesitation. However, some have less restrictive instructions. It’s worth finding out.


6%

In 2019-2020, textile products accounted for 6% of materials going to landfill or incineration in Quebec. “That may seem low. On the other hand, we are worried that this amount is increasing,” says Sophie Langlois Blouin from Recyc-Québec. In 2011, textiles accounted for only 3% of the materials eliminated.


PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, THE PRESS

Unfortunately, many socks with holes end up in the textile waste.

Why is it difficult to recycle clothes?

Recycling post-consumer textiles is complex. “We have to sort each garment to know its fiber,” explains Janie-Claude Viens, development officer, ecological transition, at Concertation Montréal.

There aren’t many outlets that we will use every type of fiber for. For example, if you want filling, it needs polyester because it’s a little bit more fluffy and that it does not absorb moisture. If you want to make rags, you need cotton.

Janie-Claude Viens, Development Officer, Green Transition, at Concertation Montréal

However, the fact that a piece of clothing can now be made of cotton, polyester and spandex at the same time complicates the whole thing. The presence of buttons and zippers is also detrimental to recycling. “There is much more tampering with used clothing than with leftovers that come directly from the industry,” notes Janie-Claude Viens. Quebec already had facilities that shredded textiles, says Sophie Langlois Blouin of Recyc-Québec. The relocation of certain productions has made this activity less profitable. Today, the lack of defibering expertise and equipment is “a major obstacle to developing outlets” for unloved fabrics, according to a report prepared for MUTREC, a group that is leading the transition from Quebec’s textile industry to one circular economy supported.

tamping process

  • Even heavily worn clothing can often be repaired, believes Christine Deniger, owner of Le bac rose.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Even heavily worn clothing can often be repaired, believes Christine Deniger, owner of Le bac rose.

  • For the heart-shaped repair on these jeans, Christine Deniger used fairly thick embroidery floss to recreate a fabric where there was a hole.  To do this, she installed an embroidery hoop to stretch the garment to be darned.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    For the heart-shaped repair on these jeans, Christine Deniger used fairly thick embroidery floss to recreate a fabric where there was a hole. To do this, she installed an embroidery hoop to stretch the garment to be darned. “It can also be a bowl with a rubber band,” she says.

  • There's a way to have fun fixing things.  Here, for example, she drew circles with chalk to then make various embroidery stitches and embellish the jeans.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    There’s a way to have fun fixing things. Here, for example, she drew circles with chalk to then make various embroidery stitches and embellish the jeans. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s what I love about creative embroidery. Less skilled at sewing? There is always a chance to turn old clothes into rags.

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Upcycling instead of recycling

So that unloved clothing does not end up in the landfill, some companies rely on upcycling instead of recycling. “Basically, it’s about converting what we treat as waste into something with added value,” explains Janie-Claude Viens. Designers who have embarked on this journey will reclaim reel scraps from major corporations or use used clothing and unsold pieces at thrift stores. “Such a challenge is not easy to master in the age of online sales, because every model is unique. It’s a really interesting artisanal solution, but unfortunately it won’t solve the problem on a large scale,” explains the woman who has been interested in the impact of the fashion industry for years. Among the Quebec upcycling companies, let’s name Collateral, Les belles bobettes and Kinsu. Others recycle post-industrial textile waste instead.

From leggings to hair ties

  • Christine Deniger also does upcycling.  The one who gives sewing workshops to children and adults in the Beloeil region uses damaged clothes for her projects.  Here is step by step how to make a hair tie out of old leggings.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Christine Deniger also does upcycling. The one who gives sewing workshops to children and adults in the Beloeil region uses damaged clothes for her projects. Here is step by step how to make a hair tie out of old leggings.

  • Cut the leg of the leggings at the seams to create a larger piece of fabric.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Cut the leg of the leggings at the seams to create a larger piece of fabric.

  • Iron the piece.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Iron the piece.

  • Using sewing scissors or a rotary cutter, cut a strip 60cm long and 10cm wide.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Using sewing scissors or a rotary cutter, cut a strip 60cm long and 10cm wide.

  • Create a tube with your fabric.  To do this, fold the fabric lengthwise with the unpatterned side facing up.  Sew with the machine about 4 cm from the end.  Also, leave 4 cm free at the bottom of the tube.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Create a tube with your fabric. To do this, fold the fabric lengthwise with the unpatterned side facing up. Sew with the machine about 4 cm from the end. Also, leave 4 cm free at the bottom of the tube.

  • Turn the fabric inside out.  Here's the pipe!  With the latter, create a circle by joining and sewing the two ends together.  Leave an opening to slide the elastic through.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Turn the fabric inside out. Here’s the pipe! With the latter, create a circle by joining and sewing the two ends together. Leave an opening to slide the elastic through.

  • Cut an elastic band 20 cm long.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Cut an elastic band 20 cm long.

  • Secure one end of the elastic to the end of the tube with a diaper clip.  Push the other end through the tube.  Once the two ends are connected, sew them together.  Close the opening of the hair tie with yarn.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Secure one end of the elastic to the end of the tube with a diaper clip. Push the other end through the tube. Once the two ends are connected, sew them together. Close the opening of the hair tie with yarn.

  • Many projects can be done without a sewing machine.  With her company Le bac rose, Chistine Deniger offers kits to make stuffed animals from used textiles.  A fun family activity.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Many projects can be done without a sewing machine. With her company Le bac rose, Chistine Deniger offers kits to make stuffed animals from used textiles. A fun family activity.

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PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, THE PRESS

In 2019-2020, textile products accounted for 6% of materials going to landfill or incineration in Quebec.

Four tips to reduce your textile waste

How to limit the amount of textile waste we produce individually? Here are some gestures suggested by the experts for whom The press spoken.

  1. Reduce at source. “Before buying a piece, it pays to ask yourself: do I really need this? says Sophie Langlois Blouin from Recyc-Québec.
  2. focus on quality. “Sometimes it’s better to pay a little more to buy a better quality product that we can keep longer,” says the Vice President of Recyc-Québec.
  3. Plan carry. “The wear often occurs in the same place from one pant to the next,” notes Janie-Claude Viens. There is a way upstream […] to see a seamstress to reinforce these spots. The holes then appear much less quickly. »
  4. Shop at thrift stores. By buying used clothes you limit your ecological footprint. But be careful not to fall into the trap of overconsumption, warns Janie-Claude Viens. “It costs less, so people tend to buy more. But a piece of clothing sleeping in a closet is extremely polluting because it’s a lot of wasted resources. »

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