Researchers are hoping their new study will be used to change how much clothing ends up in landfills.

The study was lead by Sabine Weber, a professor of fashion at Seneca College, in partnership with the University of Waterloo.

It showed Canadians throw out about a billion pounds of fabric items per year, making up just over four per cent of landfill waste.

“If the industry would continue on the same path as we are now, then I think we would emit for a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions,” Sabine Weber explained.

“We use a lot of energy to produce the textiles, so it makes sense to avoid throwing them away,” added Olaf Weber, the Research Chair of Sustainable Finance at the University of Waterloo.

The researchers used a ranking system to evaluate the quality of the clothes. For example, a pair of ripped, stained jeans could be repaired and resold. Cotton shirts can be reused as reclaimed fibers for fashion or home insulation.

“The question is, of course, where can we recycle them and how can we recycle them,” Sabine Weber said. “We have a program for everything, but not for textiles.”

“So there are some that are really high quality and they don’t belong in the waste, because we can reuse them. Others can be recycled,” Olaf Weber said.

Consignment stores like Carousel Clothing in Kitchener are proving sustainability is here to stay. The store buys used clothing to resell to customers. Any clothes they don’t sell are donated to charity to be re-used.

“We see a lot of fast fashion come through the door and we do turn a good chunk of it down,” Paula Wilkie, the owner of Carousel Clothing, said. “That’s the last thing I want to see is stuff being thrown out.”

Despite the growth of ‘fast fashion,’ Wilkie is seeing a shift in the mindset of shoppers.

“A lot of calls from the younger generation that are looking to recycle and repurpose their clothes,” Wilkie said.

The researchers hope to build infrastructure to recycle clothing in Canada, to try and change how each province deals with waste and keep clothes out of landfills. 


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