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Collective Impact & Systems Change
Since 2017, Fashion Takes Action has convened the first cross-sector collaborative to address textile waste diversion and recycling
This effort to make fashion circular was made possible by the generous support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation Collective Impact Grant. Our group includes over 40 stakeholders – charities, collectors, retailers, brands, academics, municipalities and NGOs. We are now the Ontario Textile Diversion Collaborative, and we have identified 4 priority areas with respect to pre and post consumer textile waste:
- Regulatory/Policy: We supported the efforts of the Canadian Apparel Federation and Retail Council of Canada on the amendment of the Stuffed Articles Regulation. Our focus is now on the Federal Duty Drawback, exploring the possibility of reversing this absurd legislation to instead reward retailers for reuse and recycling rather than landfill or incineration.
- Data/Research: Through a collaborative process, we developed a standardized waste audit template for municipalities to track, in detail, the textiles that are showing up in their waste stream. Not only do we need to know how much of our landfill is textile waste, but also how much of it is clothing vs upholstered goods, or natural fibers vs synthetics.
- Communications: The average person is confused about what to do with their unwanted textiles. Some donate to friends, family or their local charity, but the majority put them in the garbage. We hope to change this behaviour through our public awareness campaign courtesy of Public Inc, which will help citizens better understand the many forms of diversion, as well as the plain and simple fact that nothing belongs in the trash.
- Recycling Industry: If we are successful in our efforts to increase textile diversion rates from the current 15% to 50%, we must also consider the alternative to shipping overseas. Working with academics and engineers to develop prototypes, and engaging with various manufacturing sectors (buildings, automotive) through pilot programs, we will explore the business case to develop a local recycling industry.
According to the Council for Textile Recycling (2014), 85% percent of all textiles are going directly into landfills rather than being recycled or reused. This is a huge problem because natural textiles biodegrade in landfills, producing CO2 and methane emissions which contribute to climate change; while synthetic materials do not biodegrade and instead stay forever in landfills (Fletcher, 2013).
Solving this problem would require all textiles to be collected and diverted from the waste stream. This is a simple solution in theory, however the processes required to achieve it are complex. It requires the consolidated efforts of numerous stakeholder groups and millions of citizens.
The solution also depends upon changes in social and technological processes. New social developments have increased awareness about the problem and inculcated a desire to solve it, offering an opportunity for change.
However, conflicting interests surrounding textile diversion, coupled with a lack of industry, governmental, and academic perspectives, has contributed to the uncertainty about how to solve the issue of textile waste.
In order to change a system, it requires participation from public and private sectors, as well as civil society. Our group consists of residential, industrial, commercial and institutional sectors, with a variety of perspectives (academic and non-academic) including textile collection agencies, municipalities, the fashion industry and government.
Municipalities were included since they manage the residential waste and recycling services in their respective areas according to mandates set by provincial governments. Each municipality in Ontario is responsible for developing its own waste management program pursuant to provincial laws. Municipalities, or cities, can therefore take an active role in textile waste diversion, and can also influence the diversion of textiles from the waste stream within their area by delimiting rates at which charities collect textiles.
Industry stakeholders, meanwhile, as for-profit players invested in the business of textile collection (more so than charities), could serve as a powerful and influential sector in diverting textiles. Currently, industry stakeholders mainly contribute to textile waste and take passive, or often negative positions towards extended producer responsibility, including clothing that enters the landfill.
The following stakeholders are participants in the OTDC:
Value Village | City of Toronto | Retail Council of Canada | Hudson’s Bay | Scout Environmental | Seneca College | Salvation Army | City of Markham | Loblaw/Joe Fresh | Diabetes Canada | City of Guelph | Kidney Foundation of Canada | Brands for Canada | Toronto and Region Conservation Authority | Toronto Environmental Alliance | George Brown College | Recycling Council of Ontario | Canadian Standards Association | Canadian Apparel Federation | Canadian Environmental Law Association | NACTR | University of Waterloo