Why and Where to Recycle Old Clothing and Textiles

We all like new clothes. Even those of us who have to be dragged through the mall only to pick out everything in black for the hundred thousandth time. With online platforms it is becoming easier for consumers to select those funky t-shirts we never knew we needed. But the cost of keeping our closets fresh goes far beyond the cash price we pay. Without the presence of an ecosystem that allows for large scale textile recycling and new venues of donating used clothes, waste management will continue to be a major challenge.


In the race of providing new styles every week with affordable and low-quality clothes, waste is winning more and more space in the landfills. “Fast Fashion” is becoming a serious problem. Not only is this industry criticized for terrible working conditions for its employees overseas. Clothes that rip or become unusable after just a few washes, are bound to create massive waste. 85% of these used textiles still end up in the landfill.


Organizations such as Fashion Takes Action are working to promote ‘Slow Fashion’ which focuses on simplicity in style, higher quality products and ethical manufacturing. In fact, there is a call to establish Zero waste fashion by finding new ways to recycle old clothes. Meanwhile, Ontario alone generates 500,000 tonnes of waste every year and that number is growing fast.


On average, a Canadian purchase 70 new pieces of clothing every year. What that does is create a rapid replacement for clothes that are finding their way into landfill. As a result, on average, the amount of times a garment is being worn has reduced by 36% as compared to 15 years ago. This being due to the abundance in choice, but most importantly; the current design of retail sales in this industry. North Americans as a whole are disposing more than 12 million tonnes of material every year, of which at least 95% can be recycled or used again.


From production to disposal, even with so many ways to recycle old clothes; there is much room for improvement. Why do we keep saying stuff like that you ask? According to the State of Re-use report 2018 60% of North Americans shop thrift or pre-owned clothes less than once a year. 53% North Americans don’t like going through huge piles to find what they are looking for and 80% of them travel less than 15 minutes to donate old clothes.


One of the low hanging fruits to solve this problem may be to setup an economic pathway for businesses to deliver more value in this space. The government of Canada has already been working on establishing a “circular economy”. The idea is to create opportunities for entrepreneurs when they deploy re-use of material that would usually be thrown away. This means, producing goods that can compete in this new market with a conscience. Some entrepreneurs have already taken the lead in acting on this opportunity so that we can reduce pileups in the landfill.


Enter, “circular procurement” which is defined by European union as the “purchase of works, goods, or services that seek to contribute to closed energy and materials loops within supply chains, whilst minimising or … avoiding negative environmental impacts and waste creation across their whole lifecycle”. So, without having to go around in too many circles. What that means is that, it’s good to donate old clothes but it’s even more crucial to provide venues that utilize textile recycling as a resource for production.


The government of Ontario has come up with various initiatives to help people that believe in waste reduction. Markham’s differentiated recycling program is taking away 1.4 million kilograms of clothing waste from landfills in less than a year. Toronto has committed to continually improve its textile recycling program for its residents.


There a number of ways to donate and recycle old clothes. But be sure to check out the Waste reduction week in the Niagara region coming up in October this year that will do a thorough job of explaining the circular economy in all its stages.


Here are 8 organizations with a cause, helping to recycle old clothes around the Toronto area.


  1. Jesse’s Centre


Jesse’s Centre focus their efforts on helping young mothers with kids. So, if you have adorable baby clothes, young women clothing or maternity wear to give away; they are a great option.


  1. Dress for Success


I like this organization because they utilize lightly worn outfits that women can feel confident in for interviews. An outfit that no longer sparks joy for you could change someone’s career trajectory.


  1. New Circles


This charity organization fulfills basic needs for people living in poverty as well as the Mount Sinai Hospital.


  1. Canadian Diabetes


This is a widespread network throughout the Greater Toronto Area with an option to have your old clothes picked up. Or you can use one of their donation bins near you.


  1. Really Really Free Market


This must be one of the fastest ways to get rid of old clothes and the best part is that everything is free in this market. You also get to browse around for an hour to find hidden treasures before grabbing anything you like.



  1. Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre


This community center helps people dealing with issues such as poverty or mental health. They accept clean clothes especially in the large and X-large sizes category.


  1. Value Village


This company provides a good way to donate your old clothes and bring them back into the circulation as they are for-profit and resell them on cheaper prices. They also help charities by stocking their clothes in their store.


  1. Salvation Army


Drop off your old outfits at anyone of the donation bins or Donor Welcome center near you.


Finding new ways to recycle, re-sell or donate old clothes and optimizing the processes that makes reducing landfill masses effective can be a significant opportunity. Apart from large established brands small and medium business all around Ontario have found innovative ways to re-purpose waste material. A lot of inspiring work has been done in this space so there are many options for you to de-clutter your wardrobe while helping someone. Canadians today not only care about reducing waste, but they want to help social organizations while doing it. Here is our chance to gain bragging rights through giving, once more.




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