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How A Dumpster Dive Helps Us Understand Textile Waste

Textile waste is an increasing problem worldwide. According to the Recycling Council more than 85% of all unwanted clothing end up in landfills instead of being donated.

Textiles take up valuable space in our landfills and even release greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change as they biodegrade. More research is needed to understand what kind of textiles consumers put into the garbage, the condition of these garments, their fibre content, and the kinds of recycling they require. 

Related: 5 Clothing Recycling Mistakes You May Be Making

To conduct this necessary research on textile waste diversion, Fashion Takes Action’s Kelly Drennan approached Prof. SabineWeber from Seneca’s School of Fashion. With funding from Seneca’s Applied Research Fund, they collaborated with AET Group, a specialist in waste audits, to collect the textile waste from 9 municipalities across Ontario. 

Just before the holidays, 18 students from Seneca’s School of Fashion spent two days under the direction of Prof. Weber analyzing 600 kg of textile waste; weighing, sorting, and grading textiles thrown in the garbage. Though it was a stinky and dirty job, since most material came right from the garbage bin and was contaminated from other waste, the students worked tirelessly, and the results were surprising.

Related: How Fashion And Climate Change Are Linked

Most of the dumped clothing could be worn if only the material had been donated instead. Some items still had the price tag on them! Some were so trendy that a few of the student researchers wanted to keep them.

Rather than dump these clothes back in the landfill, the facility management team, led by Don Foster, in collaboration with Seneca School of Fashion, decided to make an exhibition to raise awareness about the topic. The team washed all the textiles and piled them up. However, looking at a pile of clothes does not show the value of the material; therefore, it was decided to feature some of the items.

How A Dumpster Dive Helps Us Understand Textile Waste

The point of the exhibition was to tell others about it and even more importantly, the hope is it inspires you to donate your unwanted garments rather than throw them in the waste.

When it comes to donating, textiles can be damaged with plenty of holes or stains, they only need to be dry, clean and odourless. If you have clothes you would like to donate, you can find Seneca’stextile collection bins next to the boutique and next to the parking lot.

Candice Batista

Candice Batista is an award winning Environmental Journalist and one of Canada’s leading eco advocates. Her career spans national and international media outlets, where she has used her background in environmental studies and media & communications to produce and report on various environmental and climate issues for primarily television and digital audiences including Huffington Post, The Globe & Mail, The Weather Network, CityTV, Rogers Television, The Pet Network, iChannel, and CTV, where she is currently the National Eco Expert for the stations number 1 daytime talk show, The Marilyn Denis Show.
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