Feb 09, 2023
By Christine Ross
Listen to Christine’s report here.
A new first-of-its-kind study in Canada has quantified just how much of our clothing ends up in landfills. The lead authors hope their research will bring about new regulations.
“My dream is no more clothes and no more textiles going into the landfill,” says co-author Sabine Weber, professor of fashion at Seneca College. “And when you see what ends up in the garbage, it’s actually really sad, and we had a lot of helpers in this study, every helper found something in the garbage that they liked so much, they kept it.”
The study was done in partnership with the University of Waterloo where Olaf Weber is Chair in Sustainable Finance.
“Textile is not a waste category on its own and so there was really no knowledge about how much we find in the waste, there are some studies in other countries but nothing on Canada.”
Their study found that one billion pounds of fabric items end up in landfills each year in Canada, making up over 4 % of the total waste. And there are no regulations with a few exceptions. Markham’s textile recycling program diverted 1.4 million kilograms of clothes from landfill in less than a year.
“Many people think we have those companies where you can donate your clothes and assume everything is being donated, but our study clearly shows that’s not the case,” says Sabine. “And we have to realize that textiles are no a designated waste material in Ontario.
But Sabine says there is a silver lining.
“Fashion consumption has slowed down, at least in Canada but is still growing in countries like China and India.”
And that trend is being seen in the second-hand clothes shopping industry.
“People are much more conscientious and people are purposefully shopping this way,” says Ginette Blais, owner of Reboot Vintage in the Montreal Street Collective in Kingston.
Ginette has been part of what she calls the pre-loved clothing movement for three decades and in the past few years, decided to open her own used clothing business. “What I look for are the natural products, and vintage products that have been made and well tailored from many, many years ago and there’s a lot of those out there.”