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
“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.
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.
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.
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
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.
- Reduce at source. “Before buying a piece, it pays to ask yourself: do I really need this? says Sophie Langlois Blouin from Recyc-Québec.
- 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.
- 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. »
- 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. »