Canada's Condominium Magazine

Tridel company shows environmental leadership with textile recycling program

This may surprise you: the second most polluting industry in the world, after oil production, is—fashion. More specifically, textiles. According to the advocacy group Circle Economy, when you consider the heavy use of resources, including land, water, energy and chemicals, required to produce textile fibres, and the fact that so much of the final product is quickly discarded, after having been shipped vast distances on fossil-fuel-burning container ships, in the “fast-fashion model” of production and consumption, you have enormous amounts of textile waste and unsustainable resource depletion.

Global textile production is already at about 90 million tonnes per year, the group says, the equivalent of 80 billion garments. And that is likely to double in the next twenty years. Twenty million tonnes of discarded textiles are landfilled or incinerated in the EU and the US alone each year.

Incredibly, most of that—95 per cent according to Circle Economy—could be re-worn or re-cycled. The main benefit of doing so would be to cut down on the need for virgin textile resources, especially cotton, which is considered the worst environmental offender of all. It uses more water, both in growing and in dyeing and finishing, than its synthetic counterparts, such as rayon or polyester, and it is responsible for high levels of pollution through the release of untreated effluent in some countries, notably Indonesia. It can take 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture a cotton T-shirt and pair of jeans.

A cotton t-shirt and jeans can consume 5,000 gallons of water in production, says Circle Economy.

The challenge as Circle Economy sees it is to convince consumers and governments that recycled, post-consumer textile waste can be transformed into high-quality, beautiful products with a minimal environmental impact. In one case study to prove that denim could be successfully recycled and retain its high value, the group showed that the recycled denim had a 12.5 per cent price premium compared to virgin equivalents. In another, old army and navy uniforms were recycled into new yarns and used to produce humanitarian aid blankets.

Given that this can be done—is being done—one must wonder why a city like Toronto does not have a textile recycling program. A recent CBC news item reported that 85 per cent of the clothes we discard here end up in landfill, while the city’s recycling department sternly warns us that “old clothes, shoes, blankets and curtains don’t belong in the Blue Bin. They can get caught in the sorting machines, damage equipment and cause workplace injuries.”

If you can’t give your old clothes away, put them in the garbage, the city tells us.

About 85 per cent of discarded textiles end up in landfill.

Meanwhile, advocates for textile recycling in the city encourage us to take matters into our own hands, as it were, and take our old clothes and shoes and “curtains” to one of the many places that do accept them: the Salvation Army, the Humane Society (towels and sheets can be used for lining cages), the Canadian Diabetes Foundation, Covenant House, the Fort York Food Bank, the Kidney Foundation of Canada, the Oasis Clothing Bank, and many more. A few retailers, such as Puma, American Eagle Outfitters, North Face, and H&V also accept clothing for recycling.

We are thrilled to work with an organization that is as committed to sustainability as Delmanor/Tridel Group of Companies. They are truly setting a positive standard for their entire sector, and we are proud to be included in the development of their textile reclamation program and hope that other property management companies are inspired to follow their positive example.

Despite the city’s lack of action, there is good news from one of Toronto’s pre-eminent real estate groups, the Tridel Group of Companies. Its Delmanor member, which owns and operates luxury retirement communities in the GTA, is bringing textile recycling into their residences. A statement from the company says it has partnered with Textile Waste Diversion, the leading textile reclamation company in Ontario.

Delmanor operates the first retirement community ever awarded LEED certification in Canada, Three of its communities are now LEED certified, and the company has demonstrated environmental leadership in other ways as well. It launched an organics recycling program in 2016 and diverted over 250,000 pounds of food waste from landfill. A chemical-free cleaning system was implemented three years ago.

The VP of Development at Textile Waste Diversion, Daniela Siiggia, commented she was thrilled to work with an organization as committed to sustainability as Delmanor and the Tridel Group of Companies are. “They are truly setting a positive standard for the entire sector,” she said, “and we hope that other property management companies are inspired to follow their example.”

Find out more about how to donate used clothing, purses, shoes, linens, drapery and belts at the Textile Waste Diversion website.

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