Textile Waste Reduction

Textiles are clothing and other related items, such as shoes, purses, belts, drapes, linens and bedding.

Textiles are impacting our environment

The textile industry plays an important role in our global economy. However, in recent years the amount of clothing produced has increased drastically due to the rise of ‘fast fashion’. Many retailers are now producing large volumes of low quality, inexpensive clothing, designed to be bought, worn and quickly discarded. This trend has increased the negative environmental impacts associated with the production, use and disposal of textiles.

 Production

Textile production requires a significant amount of resources including:

  • Energy: In 2015, greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of  textiles totaled more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
  • Water: It takes 2,700 liters of water to make one T-shirt – enough for one person to drink for approximately 2 and a half years.
  • Chemicals: Many chemicals, such as pesticides and dyes are used during all stages of textile production, from treatment processes to fibre production. The World Bank estimates that globally, 20% of polluted wastewater from industrial activities comes from textile production.
 
 Use
  • Approximately half a million tonnes of plastics are released into the ocean each year from the washing of plastic-based textiles, such as polyester. That is equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles!  
  • The number of times a garment is worn before it is thrown away has decreased by 36% compared to 15 years ago.
 Disposal
  •  Due to the rise in ‘fast fashion’ and confusion on what to do with unwanted textiles, a significant quantity of textiles end up in the garbage.
  • Each year, Canadians throw 500 million kilograms of clothing and other textiles into the garbage. Approximately 95% of these textiles can be reused or repurposed.

Simple ways to reduce your clothing waste

The best way to limit the environmental impacts of clothing and other textiles is to make sustainable choices like the ones below. 

Choose quality
  • Buy quality items that will last longer. When buying clothes look for the following indicators of quality clothing:
    • Strong even stiches
    • Well-stitched buttons without loose threads
    • Smooth hems and edges
  • Buy items that are timeless and will be worn extensively.
    • Challenge: Do not buy an item unless it will get at least 30 wears.
  • Choose natural, non-synthetic fabrics that are free from toxins and chemicals. More environmentally-friendly substitutions include organic cotton, bamboo, and hemp.
  • Purchase sustainable clothing including those that are:
    • Certified by a third body, such as Fairtrade
    • Designed and made locally
 
Care and repair 
  • Sort similar items together in laundry loads according to fabric type (delicate, heavy) and colour (light, dark, bright). New items should be washed separately due to their tendency to bleed.
  • Turn all clothing, especially darkly coloured items, printed shirts and jeans inside out to avoid bleeding while protecting them during the wash.
  • Use less detergent and wash your clothes in cold water to decrease any fading your items may face over time from excess heat and chemicals.
  • Avoid tumble drying as heat can damage clothing. Instead, hang your clothes to dry to save both your clothes and energy costs.  
  • Familiarize yourself with the care labels found on the inside of most clothing items and follow them carefully.
  • Use online tutorials to learn how to make basic clothing repairs such as sewing a hem or button, mending holes or replacing zippers.
  • Store clothes in a cool and dry environment away from the light and fold heavy items, like sweaters, on shelves to prevent fabrics from stretching.
Swap 
  • Attend a community clothing swap or organize one with your friends and family.
  • Use online swapping platforms such as Bunz to trade your items with neighbours for new-to-you clothes and other textiles. 
 
Sell 
  • Sell your unwanted clothing using online reuse platforms, such as Facebook Marketplace, Etsy, Kijiji or Letgo.
  • Sell your clothes to consignment or vintage stores and consider purchasing unique second-hand items, as well.
  • Organize a garage sale to meet your neighbours while selling any clothes and other textiles that you no longer need   
Donate 

Donating your unwanted clothing and other textile items is a great way to give back to the community. There are many organizations throughout Richmond Hill that will accept these items. Some retailers, such as H&M, also have in-store collection programs and can be contacted for more information. Pick your favourite registered charity or local business and your preferred mode of collection (pick-up, drop-off) to pass along items you are no longer using! 

Registered charities 

Organization/business Donation bin Thrift store Home pick-up
Cornerstone to Recovery Find a drop box   Schedule a pick-up
Diabetes Canada
Find a drop box
  Schedule a pick-up
The Kidney Foundation of Canada     Schedule a pick-up
The Salvation Army Find a drop box Find a location  

For-profit organizations

Organization/business Donation bin Thrift store Home pick-up
Plato’s Closet   Find a location  
Value Village   Find a location   

If your organization would like to be included in this list, please contact greeningthehill@richmondhill.ca.

DISCLAIMERThe City of Richmond Hill (“City”) maintains the directory of organizations for information purposes only. Details of the programs and services may change without notice. Residents are encouraged to visit organization websites and to call ahead to confirm what materials are accepted, hours of operation and fees (if applicable). Users are advised that the City does not endorse the organizations or services provided and is not responsible in any way for any injury to persons or property, or any damages or losses of any kind whatsoever, in connection with the use of any clothing donation bins or collection services.

  

What happens to your donated textiles?

Donating unwanted textiles extends the lifespan of your clothes and provides social and economic benefits to the community. The image below shows what happens to donated clothing. These outcomes can differ depending on the organization. For more information, please contact the organization that you donate your clothes to. 

Textile recycling infographic