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How reducing, reusing, and recycling your textiles can help the planet

Green Inspiration BC's Pavel Lalev says textiles make up "more than 5 percent of the waste stream".
Green Inspiration - Tri-City

Green Inspiration BC's Pavel Lalev says textiles make up "more than 5 percent of the waste stream".

For many, getting ready for the upcoming spring and summer seasons means sorting through old clothing, and purchasing new items to accommodate weather changes. Goodbye, old flannel jammies, and woolly sweaters. Say hello to new shorts and dresses.

While there is nothing wrong with wanting to clear out some of your items in order to create room for more seasonally appropriate garb, we can often run into trouble if we aren't thinking about the ways we release unwanted items from our wardrobe into the wild.

Pavel Lalev, Development Manager for Green Inspiration BC, says there are many ways to ensure that unwanted textiles are dealt with in sustainable and ethical ways. He points to many of the advances happening in many European countries.

In Paris, France, the municipality has designated that textiles aren't allowed to enter the waste stream, and as such has placed outside bins where textiles can be deposited for recycling. Textile recycling trucks also circulate throughout neighbourhoods, much like North American garbage trucks. Lalev also points to the Netherlands as a textile recycling role model.

"Over there they have textile recycling depots and classes where volunteers teach people how to make items out of recycled unwanted textiles."

He adds that many of these initiatives run with government support and that many of the recycling depots even have stores where people can purchase items made of repurposed and recycled textiles.

Green Inspiration operates the green bins designated for textile collection all over the Lower Mainland. Lalev points out that while we are a long way from where we need to be in terms of textile sustainability (5% of all waste is textiles), that we are progressing.

"Our company diverted 1,200 tonnes of textiles last year," he says, noting that ninety percent of the clothing collected is resellable, either in Canada or in countries overseas. He says that disposing of used clothing and shoes in any of the hundreds green textile collection bins in the Lower Mainland or Greater Victoria area is always a good thing, because the 10 percent of clothing that isn't resellable is then reprocessed, either for items as diverse as car seat filling material, or as simple as rags.

If you would like to learn more about how to help out the planet by recycling your textile waste, head to Green Inspiration BC.