On June 6th, 2023, Don Davies (MP of Vancouver Kingsway) introduced Bill C-337. This Bill would create a mandate for a "national strategy to reduce, reuse, and recycle textile waste". The Bill still has a long way to go before it becomes law. However, just the introduction of this issue to the House of Commons is pivotal in Canada's strides towards a circular economy. We will begin this blog post with some key terms, and then dive into what a National Strategy for Textile Waste Reduction could look like, before discussing what EcoEquitable is doing for this cause, and what individuals can do in the meantime.
Textiles - Items which are made from fabrics, can be unsewn bolts of fabric, clothes, rugs, and more.
Circular Economy - A system of production and consumption which prioritzes reuse and replenishment of the earth's natural resources. Ideally, in a circular economy, there would be little to no waste. We would produce fewer items, design them to be more durable so that they can be reused for years to come, and recycle those which are at the end of their life.
Textile Recycling - When items are broken down to their original fibres by either chemicals or machines, and then respun into new textiles. There is a misconception that "recycling" is the same as "reusing" or "reselling", but this is not the case. For instance, our Eco Fabric Boutique resells textiles as they are so that they can be sewn into something new. We do not recycle textiles, as we do not break them down or respin them.
Greenwashing - When a company advertises their products as sustainable, when they are actually causing harm to the environment. For example, when a company says their products are "made with recycled materials", when only a small amount of the garments are.
Extended Producer Responsibilities - When brands take responsibility for ensuring that their clothes do not end up in landfills and that they do not cause pollution.
Carbon Offset - When brands take on projects that support/replenish natural resource growth, and which replace the carbon footprint that they make in their production phase.
What Could a Strategy for Textile Waste Reduction Look Like?
Concrete Regulations on Greenwashing for all brands selling in Canada
Specific and viable regulations that are set on how brands advertise their clothing in Canada when it comes to how sustainable they are. This type of advertising regulation is already in place for all items that deem they are "Made in Canada". The Competition Bureau of Canada mandates that at least 51% of the item's total direct costs must go towards Canadian producers/manufacturers in order to be advertised as "Made in Canada". We propose that a similar rule is set to avoid greenwashing. For example, there should be a specific percentage of recycled content used in clothing for brands to be able to advertise their items as "made with recycled materials".
Specific Extended Producer Responsibilities
This Textile Strategy could include specific guidelines that producers who sell in Canada adhere to such as offering repair services, conducting carbon offset projects, and more. A great example of a brand doing this is Patagonia.
Municipal Textile Waste Diversion
The National Strategy should have collaboration between municipalities to create their own methods of textile waste collection. Right now, Ottawa's online tool, Waste Explorer, directs those getting rid of clothes to either thrift stores or landfills. This is a great start, with many other options we could explore, too! For instance, perhaps in addition to a "Waste Explorer", there could be a "Reuse Explorer", where folks in the community can go to find places that take pre-loved clothing/textiles (much like our Eco Fabric Boutique!). There could also be an increase in funding for repair services and community events (such as Repair Cafés!), as well as an increase in capacity for education on the circular economy/community-based sustainability.
What Is EcoEquitable Doing To Work Towards This?
Eco Fabric Boutique - We accept donations of ALL FABRICS that are at least one metre in length, not sewn, and free of pet hair/odour! We use this fabric in our programs and resell it at affordable prices to the general public. All proceeds help us sustain our mission of textile waste reduction and women's empowerment.
Sewing Classes - We provide lessons on how to make one's own clothes, as well as how to do alterations to make clothes last longer. If you are interested in learning how to do simple, at home repairs, you can check out our new Repair-It-Yourself Series, which is a public class added to our roster this fall!
Repair Cafés - These are a new addition to our Eco practices, and they involve partnering with community organizations to provide a day of free repairs for garments, and sometimes for home appliances/bikes/etc. We are excited about a few larger scale repair cafés that we will be participating in this fall, so stay tuned for updates!
What Can Individuals Do To Work Towards This?
There is no doubt that the largest onus is on Canadian governments and brands to implement sustainability measures for textiles. But what are some things that we can each practice, as individuals, in order to reduce fast-fashion and textile waste?
When a brand advertises itself as sustainable, do a bit of research to see whether their practices match their claims.
Voting matters. Vote in all municipal, provincial, and federal elections!
Written by: A. B. Hart