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 and produce CO2 and methane emissions which contribute to climate change, while synthetic materials will not biodegrade but will instead stay forever in landfills and decrease capacity (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 would require the consolidated efforts of numerous stakeholder groups and millions of consumers.
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 uncertainty about how to solve the issue of textile waste.
For the preparation and the design of this LAB, stakeholders representing the residential, industrial, commercial and institutional sectors were included. To reflect the full spectrum of stakeholders involved in this issue, we invited a variety of perspectives, both from academic and non-academic backgrounds, including various textile collection agencies, municipalities, industry and government.
Municipalities were included since they manage the residential waste and recycling services in their respective area 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 committed to changing the system: Value Village | City of Toronto | Retail Council of Canada | The Bay | Scout Environmental | Seneca College | Salvation Army | City of Markham | Winners/TJX | Loblaw/Joe Fresh | Diabetes Canada | City of Guelph | Kidney Foundation of Canada | Brands for Canada | Toronto Region & Conservation Authority | Toronto Environmental Alliance | George Brown College | Recycling Council of Ontario | Canadian Standards Association | York Region | Laurier University
Our multi-stakeholder group met for four intense days, facilitated by Robin Cory of Colbeck Strategic Advisors. In this four days we were able to achieve:
- Common language document that defines the terms related to textile diversion and recycling
- Common Agenda Framework and Draft Theory of Change (below)
- Four priority areas, each with assigned working groups
- Backbone structure and Leadership Committee