So, you’ve thought twice about buying something new. You’ve tried to buy with low impact. You’ve mended, patched, and repaired your clothing within an inch of its life. But now you’re out of options! Do you have to throw it in the landfill? Fortunately, there’s some other options left still.
- Make it into a rag
- Recycle it!
Wait, you can recycle textiles?
Well, not in your blue bin, but there are some options. Basically when clothes are collected for recycling, a few things may happen to them.
First, clothing is gathered at the collection point. From there it’s brought to a sorting facility, and is sorted into
- Clothing to be shipped overseas for a re-sale market (this is complicated and has some good and bad points to it. Here’s an article for further reading to help you understand and decide what you think about this issue: https://fashionista.com/2016/01/clothing-donation)
- Clothing to be turned into industrial rags
- Clothing to be shredded and turned into insulation
- Clothing to be recycled and turned into new textile products
Unfortunately, only a tiny fraction of clothing can realistically be recycled into new garments today, but much of what you may have thought was beyond hope, can be used in some way as a functional product.
What Textiles Can Be Recycled, and Where?
In Manitoba, you’ve got a number of options for those grubby items that are too crappy to donate or sell.
|Recycling Option||What Do They Accept?||Notes & More Information|
|Diabetes Canada & City of Winnipeg
|Everything! Clothing, shoes, towels, sheets, including those that are worn out, full of holes, stains, grease, etc. Please make sure items are dry and/or bagged.||These are dark blue boxes with “Textile Recycling” on the front. Watch for boxes run by different organizations, which may accept different items! Find a Diabetes Canada box near you.|
|Value Village, Salvation Army, & Goodwill||To the best of our knowledge, these organizations will accept all items (clothing, shoes, towels,sheets, etc), including those that are worn out/stained. We recommend bagging these items separately and labelling.||Note that Salvation Army and Goodwill are nonprofits, and Value Village is a for-profit corporation. Diabetes Canada sells items collected in their boxes to Value Village.|
|H&M Stores||All clothing items, regardless of brand or condition.||With a drop off of clothing, you receive an H&M gift card. Although H&M is an icon of fast fashion, we have to commend them for considering the end of life of their products.|
|Patagonia, Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe, and other brand-specific takeback programs||Patagonia only accepts Patagonia-brand items, but will accept ALL Patagonia-brand items. Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe accepts Nike brand shoes only and is not available to Canadian customers at this time.||It’s always worth checking if your favourite brand has a return program, and asking them to start one if they don’t – customer pressure makes a difference!|
|Are we missing anything?||Let us know!||Email us at email@example.com|
Want to learn more? Check out this great video from Australia’s ABC TV, or read these articles from CBC!
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below, and we can help even more people reduce their textile impact!
Don’t miss it! Read Part One of this series to rethink, reduce, and reuse your textiles!
Great Article! H&M Stores can be a shining example for other fashion outlets to think about the recycling of older items that may have originated from that chain. I love to see and hear industries thinking about the environment and the planet as a whole! Thanks for sharing!!
I volunteer with a local community group for diabetes canada and most everything that people “donate” is crap. Salvation Army sorts through and keeps the stuff they believe they can sell then it goes out the door into a a semi tractor trailer along with all the other garbage clothes from diabetes canada bin (2000lbs a week). Then it is sold to value village for a profit, then to a second hand clothing hub where it gets bundled up and sent to East Africa or other third world countries to be resold, burned or dumped in a landfill overseas. There is no current meaningful way to actually recycle cloths into an alternate product. This is another recycling ruse. Basically it’s the “Not in my backyard” or “landfill” in this case philosophy. They have found another way to exploit Africa for the benefit of Canadians. Keep your garbage out of Africa. Canadians waste the most water, food and clothes per capita in the world with no exception. Wake up!
Thank you for your first-hand experience in this!
Refuse and Reduce are always the first two “Rs” and it’s so important to extend the life of our clothes through mending, swaps, and purchasing good-quality items in the first place (or second hand).
There is actually a small market for secondhand fibres, most of which are not turned into new items of clothing (though a small handful are, often from used denim – see Levi’s jeans for an example of one company that is starting to use more recycled fibre in their manufacturing process). Typically secondhand materials that cannot be sold are first diverted to become fibreglass, insulation (for things like automobiles), or industrial rags. This isn’t true recycling, but rather downcycling, but we’re happy it’s being kept from the landfills at least.
It is shameful that we as a country are in the top echelon of waste-producers and energy-users, I agree. It’s so important that we both as individuals and as a society keep pushing for change!
I’m watching my 2nd documentary about factories in Bangladesh that make clothing for H&M & other large retailers. They don’t seem so great by the end of it. It’s horrible the way these textile workers are treated & the wages they make to appease the western world while factory owners benefit & get rich. Thousands of workers have literally died for the clothes on OUR backs, not theirs. The sad part is, try to find affordable clothing that isn’t made in countries and factories like these. In my opinion, these large corporations NEED to pay more attention to their suppliers and the environments they force their employees to work in and for.
It’s great that they are trying to recycle clothing but the reality is millions of tons of textiles end up in landfills. I like the idea of shredding what can’t be “re-worn” for use as insulation. I’ll have to look more into this.
Hi, yes, also interested in the shredding of clothing for insulation
Where can I find the City of Winnipeg textile recycling bins? Any in St. James?
Hi Mary! Please view the Diabetes Canada website for bin locations: https://declutter.diabetes.ca/donation-bin
But the diabetes bins seem to be just for clothing etc that can be sold. It doesn’t say textile recycling on it.
I have not been able to find these bins in Winnipeg for at least a year. I used to drop all my textile recycling at the Fort Rouge leisure centre bin but it’s gone. I have called 311 twice about this and they just tell me to put it in the garbage! So sad.
Do you have any suggestions to recycle upholstery fabrics? I have a lot of cloth, canvas and vinyl fabric waste from making seat covers. I would like to recycle the waste than let it go waste.
I would check in to see if the Diabetes Canada textile recycling program would be willing to accept such materials. Otherwise it may be worthwhile establishing a relationship with some local craftspeople who could use scrap upholstery fabrics to make small goods!
Here’s a thought: you could always donate the fabric to a local elementary school for art projects.
Thanks for sharing the idea, Brandy! While I’m not familiar with the types of projects kids are making out of textiles these days, it’s definitely worth looking into to see if there’s a need for fabrics of clothes that may be worse for wear in the classroom 🙂
Yes, but…..How much do they really need? Is it interesting fabric worthy of an art project? What is the end game? What happens after a student makes an art project and then leaves it at school for disposal?
That’s a great point to bring up, Darlene. Many kids crafts that combine or glue together several materials deem said materials unrecyclable…
Try Arts Junction. They accept anything that could be used for art activities.
ArtsJunktion is a great resource! Keep in mind that they cannot accept -everything-. Here is a list of accepted materials donations for those interested! https://www.artsjunktion.mb.ca/material-donations-1
This is an arts focused charity located on William Street in Winnipeg. Their mission is to reuse and distribute any material that could be used in art projects.
Thanks for sharing, Val!
Hey this is Kara here I’m a master composter of eco action Center
I want to get a bin for myself near clear lake which people can put textiles in and socks.
(Specifically it would say recycled textiles and socks )
I upcycle clothes and socks into beautiful art and wanted to have a spot for people to release there items where I could work with the items. How do I acquire a bin ?! That may specifically say socks and textiles
What a fantastic idea and great way of reducing waste! You may simply have to purchase a bin from Canadian Tire or a shop along those lines and have a water-proof label printed to attach (or make one yourself). You could always reach out to your community to see if someone may be able to donate a bin or assist with the label design/printing. Best of luck and feel free to keep us updated!
I have old jeans with holes that I would like to recycle . I am not sure about the Value Village option as I phoned the Nairn store and was told if items did not sell then they may end up in the Third World .
I would look into dropping off your “worse for wear” clothing items in one of the Diabetes Canada/City of Winnipeg bins labeled “Textile Recycling”. There’s a link to find a bin near you in this blog post!
There are crafters that recycle old Jean’s into purses and shopping bags. Try advertising on one of the many craft and handmade sites for Winnipeg. Do a google search.
The Manitoba Youth for Climate Action is having a Clothing Swap on November 29th and the 30th from 2:30 PM – 7 PM at the university of Winnipeg (https://www.facebook.com/events/399320267613690)
If you’d like you can come at the end and collect items for your art that did not get swapped!
Please fix link to Diabetes Canada. Home page has button top right corner for donating textiles (damaged are used for car door insulation,etc.)
Thanks for pointing that out – looks like they’ve changed their URL! We’ve updated the link 🙂
I just called Value Village on Ellice and Salvation on Empress and both will take textile recycling (please label the bag as such)
The Goodwill on Princess St said they no longer accept these donations.
Thanks for the update! Personally I keep a bag in my basement where I put single holey socks etc. and then either bring it to Salvation Army or Value Village, or put it in a Diabetes Canada bin – and labelling is an excellent idea! It’s important to take pity on the sorters and separate out the old/holey items so they don’t waste time on considering whether it can be re-sold.
@Jenny: thank you. I’ve been looking for a way to get rid of clothing that’s too worn to give away without tossing it in the garbage. I didn’t think of Value Village.
Nike’s Shoe Recycling program is available in Canada. It’s called Old Soles Never Die.
Thank you for the tip!
I did a quick search and could only find references to Old Soles Never Die from American sources. Do you happen to have a link to any online information on a Canadian branch of this program? Have you tried it successfully yourself? It looks like Old Soles Never Die is a reincarnaton of the Reuse-A-Shoe program from several years ago, but information is pretty limited.
After reading about the t-shirts etc…perhaps the many church groups that make quilts & such for Humanitarian entities would be interested, as well as any quilt group or rug making people.Animal rescues are another grp that may benefit from such clean cloth sources. FYI, those blue bins seen everywhere that is thought to be for the Cdn diabetes only-Walmart has taken those over, so not sure how “green” or a good choice they are! Good Luck!
Thanks for your suggestions for other sources to drop the clothes, Jane!
According to up to date information from the City of Winnipeg, the Canadian Diabetes bins at least in that city are not affiliated with Walmart. As far as we’ve been able to determine, the clothes from those are brought to Value Village. There was some question a while back about a potential link between Value Village and Walmart, but that’s been shown to be incorrect thankfully. Do you have any more info on the link you’re seeing between the Diabetes bins and Walmart? We are of course curious to track down the best information possible!
I have about 2000 brand new T-shirts, but the logo is no longer valid, so I can not donate to a Thrift store. i would like to donate them for insulation or some other use.
We will pay to have them shipped to you. we are located in Lake County, CA.
Is this something you would be interested in?
Looking forward to hearing back from you.
Wed. – Sat. 11-5pm
Unfortunately we are not in the business of textile recycling ourselves and cannot accept a shipment of shirts. However, I would recommend that you look into a local option – in Canada, the Canadian Diabetes Foundation collects clothing for both donation and recycling. Value Village and Salvation Army typically will recycle unusable textiles as well. You may have other local textile recycling options as well. Thanks for your commitment to keeping these shirts out of the trash!
Hi Tammy, I was just wondering if you still have the T-shirt mentioned in your text…
One organization had their out of date t-shirts reworked into shopping bags. Closed the bottoms and cut out the sleeves, I believe.
I work for a restaurant company and we have a few hundred t-shirts that are no longer being used due to old branding. How can we have the recycled?
If they’re still in good condition, we would suggest donating them to a thrift store or local shelter. It’s always best if clothing can be reused before recycled. If that’s not an option, the clothing can be recycled in a Diabetes Canada Textile Recycling Bin. Likely they would be willing to pick up the load from you if you have quite a bit (but you would need to reach out to them to confirm).