In August 2016, Metro Vancouver began researching the best way to tackle textile waste across the region. Based on extensive research, Metro Vancouver is now assessing potential programs and policies to reduce textile waste at a regional level.
Textiles are one of the fastest growing waste streams due to rapidly changing fashion trend cycles and low prices, which have led to an increase in clothing consumption and disposal. Metro Vancouver's
2016 Waste Composition Study estimates that textiles make up about 5% of the region's municipal solid waste, amounting to about 40,000 metric tonnes per year. The textiles category includes residential and commercial fabrics such as clothing, carpets and upholstery. More and more clothing is ending up in the garbage – currently it makes up about half of all textile waste. That's equivalent to about 44 t-shirts per person per year!
Clothing, shoes and accessories can often be donated or reused, and some fabrics can be salvaged to produce wiper rags and insulation. There are currently limited local recycling options for used clothing or fabric off-cuts from manufacturing. Less than 1% of clothing is recycled into new clothing.
Reducing clothing waste in the region will involve a sustained effort to spread the word to the community, collaborate and engage with industry; and further advance fabric recycling technologies.
Research and Initiatives:
- Metro Vancouver staff helped develop a report titled
Unraveling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area. The report summarizes key challenges with apparel waste, provides a detailed overview of the existing system for apparel reuse and recycling, and identifies opportunities for industry, academia and government to work towards the reduction of clothing and apparel waste.
- Metro Vancouver is working with the
National Zero Waste Council and others to share the findings of this report with industry and catalyze the conversation on clothing waste reduction and circular fashion.
- Through the
Metro Vancouver Regional Scholars Program, Metro Vancouver hired a graduate student to research current technologies for clothing recycling and the impacts of dyes and chemicals on the recycling process. The research paper is available through the UBC Sustainability Scholars Project Library.
- Metro Vancouver partnered with Ocean Wise Conservation Association to study microplastics arriving at its wastewater treatment plants, and is conducting
research on microplastics from washing machine wastewater.