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Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area

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Abstract and Figures

This report takes the first step towards the transition from a linear to a circular apparel system by defining the problem of apparel waste, explaining the existing system of apparel waste generation and management in the greater Vancouver area, and presenting key opportunities that need to be realized by the industry, waste management and government stakeholders in order to make the transition to circular fashion. The report details that while there is an existing system to manage apparel waste, it is not circular and it doesn’t capture all the waste that is created. To move the industry forward, we need to innovate and find ways to capture more material. And ultimately, we need to move from a linear to a circular system—to “circular fashion.”
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Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste
in the Greater Vancouver Area
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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Table of Contents
......................................................................................................................................................... I
FOREWORD ..................................................................................................................................... V
Better Together The Importance of Collaboration ............................................................................................. v
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................................................................................................... 6
Convener and Facilitator - Leverage Lab ............................................................................................................... 6
Co-Conveners ....................................................................................................................................................... 6
Metro Vancouver .....................................................................................................................................................6
City of Vancouver .....................................................................................................................................................6
Vancouver Economic Commission ...........................................................................................................................7
Debrand ....................................................................................................................................................................7
EcoFashion Week .....................................................................................................................................................7
FABCYCLE ..................................................................................................................................................................7
Writers ................................................................................................................................................................. 8
Technical Writers......................................................................................................................................................8
Editor ........................................................................................................................................................................8
Reviewers ............................................................................................................................................................. 8
Leverage Lab Collaborative for Textiles....................................................................................................................8
National Zero Waste Council, Circular Economy Working Group ............................................................................9
External Experts........................................................................................................................................................9
1 INTRODUCTION ..................................................................................................................... 11
2 DEFINING THE PROBLEM ....................................................................................................... 14
Impacts ............................................................................................................................................................... 14
Waste Volume ........................................................................................................................................................14
Plastics Clothing and Microplastics ........................................................................................................................15
Toxic Dyes and Finishing Processes ........................................................................................................................16
Risks to Business Profitability of the Take-Make-Waste Model .............................................................................16
Lost Economic Opportunity ....................................................................................................................................17
Regulatory Risk .......................................................................................................................................................17
3 ECONOMIC INSIGHTS ............................................................................................................. 19
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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4 CURRENT STATE OF APPAREL WASTE GENERATION AND MANAGEMENT ............................. 22
Overview ............................................................................................................................................................ 22
New Apparel ....................................................................................................................................................... 24
Activity 1: Design and Manufacture .......................................................................................................................24
Activity 2: Sell and Purchase ...................................................................................................................................25
Activity 3: Own and Maintain .................................................................................................................................27
Diverted Apparel ................................................................................................................................................ 28
Activity 4: Collect and Sort .....................................................................................................................................28
Activity 5: Reuse and Repurpose ............................................................................................................................38
Activity 6: Recycle ...................................................................................................................................................41
5 TOWARDS REDUCTION AND DIVERSION OF APPAREL WASTE ................................................ 46
What Might a Future Without Apparel Waste Look Like? ................................................................................... 46
Action Checklist ......................................................................................................................................................46
Places to Intervene in the Current System of Apparel Waste Generation .............................................................47
6 CONCLUSION ......................................................................................................................... 58
GLOSSARY ..................................................................................................................................... 60
BIBLIOGRAPHY .............................................................................................................................. 62
APPENDIX 1: LEVERAGE LAB COLLABORATIVE APPROACH ......................................................... A1-1
How Did We Explore This Problem? ................................................................................................................... A1-1
APPENDIX 2: TABLE OF MUNICIPAL SOLID WASTE COMPOSITION BY REGION ........................... A2-1
APPENDIX 3: REGIONAL APPAREL SYSTEMS MAP ....................................................................... A3-1
APPENDIX 4: INDUSTRY INNOVATORS ........................................................................................ A4-1
Opportunity 1 Collaboration ......................................................................................................................... A4-1
Opportunity 2 Investment ............................................................................................................................ A4-2
Opportunity 3 Education ............................................................................................................................... A4-3
Opportunity 4 Policy ..................................................................................................................................... A4-5
Opportunity 5 Business Model ...................................................................................................................... A4-7
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
Foreword
Better Together The Importance of Collaboration
A diversity of opinions is likely to invite conflict, but if stakeholders are given the correct tools,
participants can use the tension as an opportunity for learning and growth.1
Myrna Lewis, co-founder of the Lewis Method of Deep Democracy
The apparel industry, from production of fibres through to the management of apparel waste, is a
complex, multi-stakeholder system. Complex systems can leave individual stakeholders feeling stuck
when faced with solving the problem on their own. Therefore, stakeholders from both but apparel
industry and waste management industry together to solve their shared challenge of apparel waste.
This report was initiated as key next step identified among participants in the Leverage Lab for Textiles
Waste. Participant were all local actors involved directly with or connected to the various parts of the
apparel industry in the greater Vancouver area. During the workshop-style Leverage Lab sessions,
participants agreed that a common understanding of the existing state of apparel waste was a key first
step in making strides towards eliminating it.
To go beyond simply scratching the surface of the apparel waste challenge, the collaborative process
aimed at helping participants discover leverage points. In this report, these leverage points are revealed
as opportunities for action.
More details on how the problem of apparel was explored through the Leverage Lab process can be
found in Appendix 1.
1 Paraphrased from Myrna Lewis. “Mining the Gold of Conflict,TEDx Cape Town 2015.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsFz1H447kk
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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Acknowledgements
The authors thank the many organizations in the greater Vancouver area that participated in Leverage
Lab Collaborative for Textiles workshops to contribute their knowledge of the industry, their own
practices, and their ideas for reducing apparel waste in the region.
A special thank you to Sara Blenkhorn, of the Leverage Lab. Undaunted by the complexity of the
challenge, she set out to reduce apparel waste in the greater Vancouver area. It was her that brought us
all together to discuss and workshop the basis of this report. And it is her dedication to the challenge,
vision and leadership that inspired us to write this report.
Convener and Facilitator - Leverage Lab
As the convener and facilitator, Leverage Lab created a safe space for these competitors to work
together around their common challenges and guided the chosen direction of the lab while integrating
the perspectives and needs of participants. The lab brought in a new methodology that builds
relationships, creates trust and utilizes prototyping to solve our city's most complex challenges. The lab
focused on understanding the challenge first, which led Leverage Lab to explore external factors such as
regional and global trends, research best practices from other jurisdictions, enlist high-level expertise,
and seek regulatory insight.
For more on Leverage Lab, its process and supporters, please visit Appendix 1.
Co-Conveners
During the Leverage Lab Collaborative for Textiles workshops, co-conveners listed below played a key
advisory and research role between workshops. Beyond the workshops, co-conveners continued to play
a key advisory role to the writers for the development of this report. The authors would like to thank the
following organizations for taking on this important leadership role.
Metro Vancouver
Metro Vancouver’s sustainability principles provide guidance for the regional solid waste plan, which
was approved by the Province of BC in 2011. Goals include reducing the waste we each generate and
aspiring to recycle 80% of the region’s waste by 2020. With this aim, Metro Vancouver co-convened the
Leverage Lab Collaborative for Textiles to better understand how new programs and policies can
encourage the apparel and recycling industries to divert apparel waste from disposal.
City of Vancouver
The City of Vancouver has an ambitious Greenest City 2020 target of reducing waste disposed to landfills
and incinerators by 50% compared to 2008, and ultimately a goal of zero waste by 2040. As additional
steps are taken in support of this target and goal, it is necessary to understand why apparel waste ends
up in the garbage, and how reduction, reuse, and recycling options can be supported. By partnering with
the Leverage Lab Collaborative for Textiles and its participants, the City is better equipped to understand
the barriers and opportunities related to reducing apparel waste in Vancouver.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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Vancouver Economic Commission
The Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) works to position Vancouver as a globally recognized city
for innovative, creative, and sustainable business by strengthening our technology, digital
entertainment, and green economy sectors through strategic programs and initiatives. The VEC engaged
in the Leverage Lab Collaborative for Textiles to support Vancouver businesses operating in the apparel
industry, with the goal of helping the local industry reduce its ecological footprint through collaborative
efforts.
The VEC advocates for the continuation of manufacturing and production in the heart of the city. By
helping businesses become more resilient and identifying business development opportunities that are
becoming possibledue to climate change and businesses’ increasing accountability for their role in the
take-make-waste pattern of consumptionthe VEC is helping drive the green economy in Vancouver
and beyond.
Debrand
No company wants to see their products or assets going to landfill, especially with their name attached.
Debrand solves both of these problems through secure disposal. Debrand specializes in disposal of all
kinds of non-saleable or obsolete goods. Whether it’s uniforms, event equipment, or customer product
returns, security, brand protection, and the environment are paramount. Through Debrand’s services,
company assets are repurposed or recycled by the most environmentally friendly means possible
without the company’s brand name attached.
EcoFashion Week
Established in Vancouver, in 2010, Eco Fashion Week (EFW) has successfully showcased 11 editions
featuring over 150 of designers and stylists from around the globe. As a not-for-profit organization, EFW
aims to present the solutions and innovations working to develop a more responsible fashion industry.
The sustainable fashion spectrum is diverse and multi-faceted, as it considers the environment, the
working conditions, and the supply chain as well as responsible consumption practices. EFW calls this
theEco Recipe”. In short, an Eco Recipeis individualistic and speaks to the ways companies, brands,
and individuals practice sustainability.
FABCYCLE
FABCYCLE (and Frameworq) is on a mission to convert fabric waste into resource. FABCYCLE provides a
convenient pickup service for fabric scraps. Then FABCYCLE connects the scraps with the creative
community to facilitate the reuse of fabric that otherwise would have ended up in the landfill. FABCYCLE
provides creative waste diversion solutions (reuse and recycling) for materials that are difficult to
recover.
The idea for FABCYCLE came from the Leverage Lab Collaborative for Textiles, where the need for a
different kind of service to divert textile waste was identified. The Leverage Lab was a catalyst for
forming the unique business model in which FABCYCLE operateswhen bridging between the creative
community and businesses that are seeking to close the loop on textile waste.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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Writers
Technical Writers
Karen Storry, Senior Project Engineer, Solid Waste Services, Metro Vancouver
Andrea McKenzie, Zero Waste Project Engineer, Solid Waste Strategic Services, City of Vancouver
Editor
Shana Johnstone, Uncover Editorial + Design
Reviewers
The authors would like to thank the many reviewers that provided feedback on early versions of the
paper. Their comments and insights were invaluable.
Leverage Lab Collaborative for Textiles
Facilitator/Convener
Leverage Lab: Sara Blenkhorn
Fashion Show
EcoFASHION: Week: Myriam Laroche, Natalie Farrell
Designers/Brands
Gentle Fawn (The Family Business Distribution): Sarah Cumming, Carla Hogg
Lululemon: Julie Strilesky
Lunapads: Madeleine Shaw
Nicole Bridger Design: Nicole Bridger
H&M: Jessica Stasskewitsch
Fabric Finishing and Supply
Clotho (Hanna Dorothy): Matthew Danchuk, Paula Serrao
KenDor Textiles: Paul King, Sybille Kissling
Our Social Fabric: Toby Russell
Collectors, Sorter-Graders, and Resellers
Canadian Diabetes: Beata Tymoszejko
Debrand: Wes Baker, Amelia Ufford
Recycling Alternative: Louise Schwarz
Salvation Army: Dan Kinsey
Trans-Continental Textile Recycling: Patricia Penrose, Gurpreet Preety
Urban Impact Recycling: Nicole Stefenelli
Value Village / Savers: Tracie Soyka
FABCYCLE and Frameworq: Irina Molohovsky McKenzie
Government
City of Vancouver: Andrea McKenzie, Chris Underwood
Metro Vancouver: Karen Storry
Vancouver Economic Commission: Meg O’Shea
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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The authors and conveners also thank the external reviewers that contributed their knowledge of the
industry, their own practices, and their input on how to improve this report.
National Zero Waste Council, Circular Economy Working Group
Brock MacDonald, Executive Director, RCBC (Co-chair)
Christina Seidel, Executive Director, Recycling Council of Alberta (Co-chair)
Ken Ingram, Director of Technical and Environmental Services, West Coast Reduction
Fred Rabiner, Regional Vice-President, Shaw Industries Group Inc.
Jo-Anne St. Godard, Executive Director, Recycling Council of Ontario
Maury McCausland, Retail Operations Sustainability Specialist, London Drugs
Matthew Pattinson, National Account Manager, Recycling Alternative
Tony Shumpert, Vice-President of Recycling and Reuse, Value Village
Elena Papakosta, Environmental Compliance Manager, Canada, Dell Inc.
Vanessa Timmer, Executive Director, One Earth
Sonya Sundberg/Duncan Ferguson, Clean Communities, Environmental Standards Branch,
BC Ministry of Environment
Charles Kelly, President, BC Ready-Mix Association
External Experts
Andrea De Paoli, Senior Consultant, EY Climate Change & Sustainability Services
Rebecca Loyo Mayo, Director of Corporate Responsibility, Aritzia
Sabine Weber, President, Sustainable Strategies and Solutions
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0
International License.
Citation: Karen Storry and Andrea McKenzie, Unravelling Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area,
Metro Vancouver and City of Vancouver, March 2018.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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1 Introduction
This report takes the first step towards the transition from a linear (Figure 1) to a circular system (Figure
2) by defining the problem of apparel waste, explaining the existing system of apparel waste generation
and management in the greater Vancouver area, and presenting key opportunities that need to be
realized by the industry, waste management and government stakeholders in order to make the
transition to circular fashion.
Figure 1 Linear Apparel System
The report details that while there is an existing system to manage apparel waste, it is not circular and it
doesn’t capture all the waste that is created. To move the industry forward, we need to innovate and
find ways to capture more material, and we need to move from a linear to a circular systemto
“circular fashion.”
For many, circular fashion is an entirely new concept. Therefore, it is important to first establish a
common understanding of how to apply the principles of a circular economy to the fashion industry.
Starting with what is meant by circular fashion. Circular fashion is a systems level approach to
minimizing waste and environmental impacts while maximising profits. Apparel circulating through the
circular fashion system is designed so that it becomes a resource (asset) instead of a waste (liability) at
the end of its life. In practice, this translates to products that are designed to last; and products that are
designed to be recycled or returned to the biological cycle at the end of their useful life. Circular fashion
employs the following circular business models to maximize the profits from the each garment in
circulation: repair and maintenance, rent and resell, recertify and reimagine, and closed-loop recycling.
Despite the benefits of a circular fashion: minimizing apparel waste, reducing environmental impact and
improving profitability; circular-fashion business models are uncommon. This report aims to help change
that by illuminating the opportunities for the greater Vancouver area fashion industry.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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Figure 2 Circular Economy Butterfly Diagram for Apparel2
Circular fashion presents an opportunity not only to reduce waste; but also to address growing
consumer concerns. A lack of action towards circular fashion is fueling a growing concern about what to
do with textile waste arising from the manufacturing and consumption of apparel, which is referred to in
this report as apparel waste. Consumers are starting to take note of the impacts of the linear take-
make-dispose model. Documentaries, such as RiverBlue and The True Cost, are providing consumers
with unvarnished truths about the real cost of the clothes hanging in their closets, including the
environmental impacts of producing cheap clothing. Here in the greater Vancouver area, mounting
attention on waste in the apparel sectoras demonstrated by public art and advocacy projects such as
Value Village’s “I Give a Sh!rt” installation3 (Figure 3).
2 Adapted from Elllen MacArthur Foundation with original drawing from Braungart &McDonough Cradel to Cradle. “Circular
Economy System Diagram” https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/interactive-diagram
3 Lauren Sundstrom, “Vancouver Aquarium art installation takes aim at clothing waste,” Daily Hive, August 18, 2016,
http://dailyhive.com/vancouver/vancouver-aquarium-value-village-give-a-shirt-2016.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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Figure 3 Value Village’s demonstration of how much water is wasted in producing new clothes (over 2,600 litres
for one cotton t-shirt). Credit: Value Village
While this report focuses capturing what happens in the greater Vancouver area and opportunities to
move towards reduction of apprel waste in the greater Vancouver area, the greater Vancouver area is
just a small piece of a much larger system which operates in very similar ways in developed countries
around the world. Therefore, the contents of this report are widely applicable.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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2 Defining the Problem
Why does the disposal of apparel matter?
Impacts
Clothing plays an important role modern society. We can’t do away with it. But we can educate
ourselves as to the impacts of take-make-waste clothing and find innovative ways to produce clothing to
reduce the impacts.
It is time to ask: How might we dress ourselves without the following negative impacts?
Waste Volume
Apparel waste is estimated to be one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world.4 The Boston
Consulting Group estimates that 83.5 million tonnes of apparel waste goes to disposal annually and that
by 2030, annual apparel waste to disposal will increase by 62% to 134.3 million tonnes due to an
increase in consumption.5 In Canada, an estimated 500,000 tonnes of apparel waste goes to disposal
annually. In the greater Vancouver area, approximately 20,000 tonnes of apparel (2.3% of the total
garbage)6 goes to disposal annually (Figure 4).
Apparel prices started to decrease in 2000, when China entered the World Trade Organization, and
prices have not yet recovered.7 Relatively low prices for clothing, consumer confusion about what to
donate, rapidly changing trends, and lack of commercially viable closed-loop recycling is resulting in an
increasing amount of apparel going to disposal.
Figure 4 Apparel Waste to Disposal, 2015 (thousand tonnes).
4 Kirsi Niinimaki and Lotta Hassi, “Emerging design strategies in sustainable production and consumption of textiles and
clothing,Journal of Cleaner Production 19 (2011): 1876–1883.
5 Boston Consulting Group and Global Fashion Agenda, Pulse of the Fashion Industry, Global fashion Agenda & The Boston
Consulting Group, 2017,
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5810348d59cc68e529b7d9ba/t/596454f715d5db35061ea63e/1499747644232/Pulse-
of-the-Fashion-Industry_2017.pdf.
6 Tetra Tech EBA Inc., 2016 Waste Composition Monitoring Program (Burnaby, BC: Metro Vancouver, 2016).
7 Cascadia Consulting Group, King County Linkup Program 2016 Textiles Market Research Memorandum (revised) (King County,
WA: King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, 2017).
500
40 20
-
100
200
300
400
500
600
Canada BC Metro Vancouver
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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In 2015, global fashion waste equaled greater than 90% of the estimated global fashion fibre production
(Figure 5).
Figure 5 Global Fibre Production Compared to Global Fashion Waste, 2015 (million tonnes). 8 , 9
Increased awareness of the impacts of take-make-waste fashion is needed to prevent further strains on
our limited solid waste capacity and expedite the transition from linear to circular fashion.
Plastics Clothing and Microplastics
Synthetic fibres, such as polyester and acrylic, comprised 55% of the global fibre market in 2016.10 This
poses a challenge for waste diversion, as such fibres are difficult to recycle. Teijin, in Japan, is the only
one commercial closed-loop recycling plant that accepts used polyester garments. It operates using a
take-back program model, accepting only garments from partner brands that have been designed for
recycling. Most mainstream polyester garments have no closed-loop recycling option at end-of-life. In
addition they are less desirable in open-loop recycling options such as wiper rags and insulation.
Apparel made from synthetic fibres sheds some of this fibre through regular wear and washing, resulting
in the accumulation of microplastics in the environment. Too small to be filtered out by washing
machines and sewage plants, microplastics in laundry wastewater end up in rivers, lakes, and oceans
where they are ingested by aquatic lifeand eventually make their way up the food chain.11 Local
researchers found that there are 3,000-4,000 microfibres per cubic meter of water in the Georgia
Straight.12
Without a change to how we make and care for our garments, synthetic fibres will continue to pollute
aquatic environments with microplastics.
8 Textile Exchange, Preferred Fiber & Materials Market Report 2017, 2017. To download the report:
http://textileexchange.org/downloads/2017-preferred-fiber-materials-market-report/.
9 Boston Consulting Group and Global Fashion Agenda, Pulse of the Fashion Industry.
10 Calculated from data provide by Textile Exchange, Preferred Fiber & Materials Market Report 2017.
11 Boucher, J. and Friot D. (2017). Primary Microplastics in the Oceans: A Global Evaluation of Sources. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.
43pp.
12 Desforges et al. “Widespread distribution of microplastics in subsurface seawater in the NE Pacific Ocean,” Marine Pollution
Bulletin Page, 79 (2014) 94–99.
90
84
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Global Fibre Production
Global Fahion Waste
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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Toxic Dyes and Finishing Processes
Chemical coatings, dyes, softeners, and additives can not only be toxic to consumers,13 but also reduce
the recyclability of apparel as they are a significant percent of a garment’s weight (5%–15%).14
The bulk of the environmental damage and health impacts of chemicals used in mainstream apparel
production occur before garments reach the consumers. Chemicals used to create mainstream fashions
are a major source of water pollution. Though methods are used to treat this wastewater in developed
countries, in developing countries, which produce much of the world’s textiles, wastewater treatment
methods are rarely used.15
Innovation around chemicals used in mainstream textiles is needed to protect the environment and
improve the recyclability of clothing.
Risks to Business Profitability of the Take-Make-Waste Model
Companies are feeling the strains of resource scarcity and price volatility from the current take-make-
waste model that dominates textile production.16 By 2030, if companies across the globe stay on their
current paths, there could be a seven billion tonne gap between supply and demand of natural
resources.17
Fierce competition and fast fashion have created consumer expectation for low-cost apparel. To keep
costs low, brands need a steady supply of raw material (e.g., oil and cotton) and cheap labour. Tighter
regulations coupled with increasing costs for raw material, water, labour, and energy are driving interest
in cleaner and leaner production.
Loss of customer base is the other risk for profitability, for businesses that lag behind their customers.
Organizations that take no action to prevent or minimize apparel waste impacts could see their market
share decrease as consumer awareness increases, and progressive customers actively switch to
transparent brands with practices that align with their values.
Based on conservative projections, fashion brands’ profitability levels are at risk of at least 3
percentage points if they don’t act determinedly, and soon.18
Global Fashion Agenda & Boston Consulting Group
13 Giovanna Luongo, “Chemicals in textiles: a potential source for human exposure and environmental pollution” (PhD diss.,
Stockholm University, 2015) http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:su:diva-120010.
14 Oakdene Hollins, Apparel and Footwear Recycling Innovation (Sustainable Apparel Coalition, 2014).
15 Muhammad Imran, David Crowley, Azeem Khalid, Sabir Hussain, Muhammad Waseem Mumtaz, and Muhammad Arshad,
Microbial biotechnology for decolorization of textile wastewaters,” Reviews In Environmental Science & Biotechnology 14/1
(2015): 73–92.
16 National Zero Waste Council, Circular Economy Business Toolkit (National Zero Waste Council, 2016)
http://www.nzwc.ca/Documents/CircularEconomyBusinessToolkit.pdf.
17 Peter Lacy and Jakob Rutvsit, Waste to Wealth: Creating Advantage in a Circular Economy, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).
18 Boston Consulting Group and Global Fashion Agenda, Pulse of the Fashion Industry.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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Lost Economic Opportunity
Globally, only 0.1% of collected textile waste is made into new garments.19 The current take-make-waste
model does not allow fashion brands to maximize the value of the resources (e.g., water, energy, oil,
cotton) that go into the creation of garments.
Work is underway internationally to help the fashion industry better understand the business case for
circular fashion. Circular fashion business models could help improve brand loyalty by encouraging
longer term relationships with customer through lease and maintenance. In addition, circular fashion
could help meet increasing demands for sustainable fashion.
“More than 65% of the emerging market consumers actively seek sustainable fashion versus 32% or less
in mature markets.”20
McKinsey & Company
Circle Economy, a circular economy do and think tank” from the Netherlands, collaborated with
forward-thinking fashion brands and found21 that consumers would pay a 12.5% premium for recycled
denim compared to virgin equivalents; and that use of recycled fibres resulted in savings from reduced
water and energy consumption and reduced CO2 emissions (Table 1).
Table 1 Savings from use of Recycled Fibres in Clothing (2015-2016)22, 23
Company
Description
Reduced Consumptions and Emissions (%)
Water
Energy
C02
G-STAR
30% recycled denim fibre
9.8%
4.2%
3.8%
REBLEND
100% recycled yarn from
post- consumer clothing
62%
33%
18%
While the early adoption of circular fibres by some forward-thinking companies is promising, adoption
of circular fibres across the industry is needed to prevent apparel waste.
Regulatory Risk
There is growing pressure for regulators to enact policies that reduce the volume of apparel going to
disposal in order to meet their waste reduction and recycling goals. Such policies and programs are
being contemplated and implemented at both senior and local levels of government. Recently, the City
19 “Post-Consumer Textiles Collection Is Step One, But Then What?” Circle-Economy, last modified April 6, 2017,
https://www.circle-economy.com/post-consumer-textile-collection-fibersort/#.WgjtlbYZNds.
20 McKinsey & Company, The State of Fashion 2017, (McKinsey & Company, 2016),
https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Industries/Retail/Our%20Insights/The%20state%20of%20fashion/The-state-of-
fashion-2017-McK-BoF-report.ashx
21 “Post-Consumer Textiles Collection Is Step One, But Then What?” Circle-Economy, last modified April 6, 2017,
https://www.circle-economy.com/post-consumer-textile-collection-fibersort/#.WgjtlbYZNds.
22 Circle Economy. Reblend Life Cycle Assessment Results. https://www.circle-economy.com/wp-
content/uploads/2017/01/Reblend-Life-Cycle-Assessment-Results.pdf
23 Circle Economy. G-Star Closed Loop Denim Business Case & Environmental Impact Assessment. https://www.circle-
economy.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/V3-Publishable-G-STAR-Casestudy-1.pdf.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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of Markham banned textiles from garbage collected through its curbside program, while Nova Scotia
encouraged all second-hand apparel collectors to participateas one groupto identify locations
where donations can be dropped off.
In October 2009, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment identified textiles and carpet as a
“phase 2” priority product category as part of its Canada-wide Action Plan for Extended Producer
Responsibility. The aim of the action plan was to have the phase 2 category addressed by 2017. To date,
no provinces have implemented extended producer responsibility for textiles or carpet. However, since
these products are part of the action plan, it is expected that provincial governments will consider how
EPR for these products could be addressed in the future.
It is advisable for industry to take measures to reduce waste before regulators intervene.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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3 Economic Insights
Though economic data specific to the greater Vancouver area is not readily available, the global and
provincial economics of the apparel industry provide important insights into the leverage points for
reducing apparel waste and the role of actors in the greater Vancouver area:
Apparel manufacturing is an economically important manufacturing subsector in the greater
Vancouver area. Clothing manufacturing is the fourth-largest manufacturing subsector in BC at
8.5% of manufacturing sales, following food and beverage (21.0%), value-added wood (19.8%),
and paper (10.3%), and in 2015 represented $3.7 billion in annual sales.24 BC has 184 clothing
manufacturing businesses,25 and over 80% of them are located in the Lower Mainland.
On a global scale, the greater Vancouver area plays a small role in garment manufacturing.
Apparel production in the greater Vancouver area is in the $3 billion to $4 billion range while
global clothing exports and imports are worth $445500 billion USD (Figure 6).
Figure 6 Top Exporters of Clothing, 2015. (All dollar values in billions, USD)
24 British Columbia Alliance for Manufacturing, BC apparel Industry Labour Market Partnership, Labour Market Information
Report. September 2016. https://www.workbc.ca/getmedia/41be12dd-ce11-472c-903f-
1d44341fb3c9/Manufacturing_BC_Apparel_LMP_Phase_2_Final_Sept_16.pdf.aspx
25 Statistics Canada, CANSIM Table 304-0015, Manufacturing Shipments by Industry NAICS, Apparel Industry Employer Survey
2016.
China
$175
European Union
$112
Bagladesh
$26
Veitnam
$22
India
$18
Turkey
$15
Indonesia
$7
Cambodia
$6
United States
$6
Other
$58
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
20
Consumption of apparel is a key activity in the greater Vancouver area. The wholesale and retail
apparel business (selling of new products) in the greater Vancouver area represents an
estimated $740 million USD in annual revenue.26 Overall, Canada is one of the top importers of
new clothing in the world (Figure 7).
Figure 7 Top Importers of Clothing, 2015.27 (All dollar values in billions, USD)
Repair and maintenance of apparel could be an early growth area in a transition towards a
circular economy for the fashion industry (Table 2).
Table 2 2016 Greater Vancouver Area Repair Summary28
Description
Number of
Businesses
Number of
Jobs
Revenue ($ million USD)
Shoe and Leather Repair Services
55
127
$3.3
Apparel Repair and Maintenance
54
126
$9.7
26 Hoovers Business Database, “All Metro Vancouver Businesses,accessed January 2017.
27 World Trade Organization, “Statistical Tables, Table A23 Top 10 Exporters and Importers of Clothing, 2015,” World Trade
Statistical Review, 2016, https://www.wto.org/english/res_e/statis_e/wts2016_e/WTO_Chapter_09_tables_e.pdf.
28 Hoovers Business Database, “All Metro Vancouver Businesses.accessed January 2017.
European Union
$170
United States
$97 Japan
$29 Canada
$10
Republic of Korea
$9
Australia
$7
China
$7
Switzerland
$6
Russian Federation
$6
Other
$159
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
21
Women are a key target audience for apparel waste generation. On average, women in Canada
spend almost twice as much money on apparel as do men. Fast fashion and disposable clothing
has been prevalent in the women’s wear sector, and it is increasing in menswear.29
Apparel waste diversion creates green jobs. On a per tonne bases, diverting textile waste
creates seven times more jobs than sending textiles to disposal.30
29 Marketline, Apparel Retail in Canada (Marketline, 2016). Accessed by subscription.
30: Morrison Hershfield, Assessment of Economic and Environmental Impacts of Extended Producer Responsibility Programs in
BC (Victoria, BC: Ministry of Environment, 2014), http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/solid-
waste/SolidWastePublications/AssessementEconEnvImpactsEPRPrograms-Feb2014.pdf.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
22
4 Current State of Apparel Waste Generation and Management
Understanding the current system for the generation and management of apparel waste is key to
identifying opportunities to innovate. This chapter presents the baseline research of where apparel
waste is generated and the key challenges identified during the Leverage Lab Collaborative for Textiles
process.
Overview
The system by which apparel waste is generated and managed can be understood by following three
categories of material: new apparel, diverted apparel, and wasted apparel. These material categories
are further subdivided into six key activities (Figure 8). Although the system operates at a global scale,
the following sections pay special attention to activities and stakeholders located in the greater
Vancouver area.
Figure 8 System of Apparel Waste Generation and Management: Six Key Activities.31
The new apparel category follows the creation of new clothing from designers and manufacturers
(Activity 1) through retailers (Activity 2) to consumers (Activity 3). These activities describe a primarily
linear business model that has a great deal of impact through the consumption of virgin resources.
Apparel waste is generated in each activity in this category, and is either diverted or disposed.
31 This figure is a derivative of “Apparel and Apparel Waste Flows in the Greater Vancouver Area (October 27, 2017 revision)” by
City of Vancouver in collaboration with Leverage Lab Collaborative for Textiles, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License. Refer to Figure A3.1 in Appendix 3.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
23
Terminology used to describe apparel waste comes from the waste management industry. The waste
management industry categorizes waste based on when it is generated and who discards it (the sector).
First, waste generated before reaching the end user is called pre-consumer waste, and waste generated
by the end user is called post-consumer waste. Next, waste is discarded by either residents (e.g., from
houses and apartments), or businesses, institutions and other organizations. These are referred to as
the residential sector, and the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sector, respectively. Table 3
summarizes how the different types of apparel waste generated by Activities 1 to 3 are categorized by
the waste management industry.
Table 3 Categories of Apparel Waste Generated by "New Apparel" Activities
Design and
Manufacture
Sell and Purchase
Own and Maintain
Industrial, Commercial, Institutional
Residential
Pre-consumer
waste
-designer samples
-fabric samples
-manufacturing off-
cuts
-fabric bolts and
roll-ends
-defective and
damaged apparel
-excess inventory
-designer samples
-defective and
damaged apparel
-excess inventory
-recalled inventory
-other unsellable
apparel (e.g.,
championship
merchandise
printed with losing
team’s logo)
n/a
n/a
Post-consumer
waste
n/a
-consumer returns
-recalled inventory
-uniforms
-apparel branded
with organizational
logos (e.g.,
promotional t-
shirts)
-other industry
apparel waste (e.g.,
fabric and costumes
used for film and
television)
-fabric scraps from
repair and
alterations
completed by a
business
-unwanted
consumer apparel
-damaged or worn-
out consumer
apparel
-fabric scraps from
repair and
alterations
completed by
consumers
The diverted apparel category shows how some of this apparel waste is diverted from disposal. Diverted
apparel must be collected and sorted (Activity 4) before it can be directed towards reuse and
repurposing (Activity 5), or recycling (Activity 6). Diverted apparel flows back to consumers, apparel
designers, apparel manufacturers, or other industries entirely (not shown in Figure 8). However, not all
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
24
apparel in this category is successfully shifted from waste to resource, and some apparel waste is
generated by collecting, sorting, reuse and recycling activities.
The wasted apparel category identifies flows of apparel waste from all activities to disposal.
Each activity is discussed in the sections that follow.
New Apparel
Activity 1: Design and Manufacture
Generation of Apparel Waste
Regional stakeholders that generate apparel waste from design and manufacturing activities include
specialized designers and design offices as well as cut-and-sew (manufacturing) businesses.
Design
From specialized designers and design offices, apparel waste includes design samples, leftover fabric
bolts and roll-ends, and various scraps. Included in these materials are technical fabrics with special
coatings. Apparel brands order single or limited numbers of design samples, which are no longer needed
after they have been field tested or marketed to retailers. Waste is also created from excess inventory
as well as fabrics and apparel that arrive damaged (whether from manufacturing or shipping). The
volume of design waste varies throughout the development process and is typically disposed as garbage.
Due to the use of proprietary fabric and the sensitivities around next season’s designs being made public
before they are released, design waste can be difficult to divert. Some larger brands in the region report
sending this material for secure sorting and certified destruction through local service providers such as
Debrand and various sorter-graders (see Activity 4). However, the relatively higher cost of these services
compared with disposal can be prohibitive for smaller operations.
Manufacture
The apparel waste generated by cut-and-sew businesses primarily consists of off-cuts and fabric scraps
from the cutting table. These materials are small, irregular-shaped pieces of fabric that are not easily
reincorporated into conventional manufacturing processes and are understood to be an undesirable
resource for reuse or sale. This waste is typically swept into a bin at the end of the day, resulting in a mix
of fabric types and colours co-mingled with pattern paper. Leftover fabric and factory-defect fabric
make up the remainder of manufacturing waste. Some designers using natural fibres report there is a
market for their cut-and-sew scraps, but many manufacturers do not know what to do with this waste
other than dispose it as garbage.
A compounding factor in the generation of apparel waste from design and manufacturing is the rise of
fast fashion. More garments are produced, as cheaply as possible, using lower-quality fabrics.
Challenges
The following challenges impede the diversion of design and manufacturing waste from disposal:
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
25
Design for end-of-life: There is a lack of awareness and motivation for apparel companies to
consider what happens to their product after its useful life. Designers are often unaware of
which fibres have recycling end markets.
Diversion cost: Diverting apparel waste from disposal is a potential cost to businesses, requiring
time, human resources, and infrastructure.
Business models: Business models that require continuous consumption to be profitable feed
continuous waste streams; resistance to change from linear to circular business models exists.
Supply chain transparency: The textile industry as a whole is not required to report about many
aspects of supply chain and manufacturing, including the management of textile waste.
Responsibility: In conventional business models, designers have little or no control over what
happens to apparel they design and manufacture, even if designed with reuse and recyclability
in mind.
Fast fashion seasons: The quantity of apparel is consumed annually is increasing, while the
quality of materials used is decreasing.
Activity 2: Sell and Purchase
Generation of Apparel Waste
In the course of doing business, apparel retailers end up with pre-consumer waste in the form of excess
inventory, damaged and defective inventory, samples, and post-consumer waste in the form of products
returned by customers that cannot be resold.
The nature of the damage or defect determines exactly how brands and retailers handle the material,
but in many cases, it is deemed unsellable and too expensive to repair or more cost-effective to dispose.
Some brands and retailers prefer disposal over discounting or donation to prevent defective products
from tarnishing their reputation or less-expensive items from competing with their new stock.
Decisions made by retailers that sell apparel and by the customers that purchase it affect the quantity of
post-consumer waste generated at the “own and maintain” stage (Activity 3). Fast fashion, which uses
cheaper materials and labour, floods the market with inexpensive apparel that is typically disposed
sooner than apparel designed with longevity in mind (often described as “slow fashion.”32 Intended to
be made in a more sustainable way,33 slow fashion has higher production costs for materials and labour,
which requires consumers to make a more significant investment in its purchase. The aim of the slow
fashion movement is to create high quality, well-made garments that will hold emotional and material
32 Vanessa Richmond. “In search of ethical gladrags.” The Tyee, March 17, 2006,
https://thetyee.ca/Life/2006/03/17/EthicalGladrags/). The term “slow clothes movement” is thought to be of local origin, and
has been credited to a 2004 article (https://www.straight.com/article/just-how-slow-can-you-go) written by Angela Murills, a
fashion writer for the Vancouver news magazine, The Georgia Straight.
33 Hazel Clark. “SLOW + FASHION-an Oxymoron-or a Promise for the Future…?” Fashion Theory 12/4 (2008): 427-446.; and Kate
Fletcher. “Slow Fashion: An Invitation for Systems Change.” Fashion Practice 2/2 (2010): 259-265). Sustainable production
practices associated with “slow fashion” include: use of organic, recycled and repurposed materials; hand-made products;
small-scale production; local production and use of local resources; more direct relationships between producers and
consumers; fair wages; increased agency of stakeholders across value chain, especially women; and transparent production
systems.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
26
value to the wearer, ultimately increasing consumers’ motivation to keep, and eventually pass on their
clothes.34,35
Businesses and institutions purchase apparel such as uniforms and promotional apparel. Because these
items are typically branded, commercial and institutional customers prefer sending excess and damaged
inventory to secure disposal, which ensures these items do not find their way to outsiders or to
international markets (where the reputational risk and business security risk of an outsider wearing their
apparel is very low but still of concern). Some items carry a security risk (e.g., police uniforms) and
should be securely handled to prevent impersonation of police officers, first responders or other official
agents.
Sporting events such as the Super Bowl provide an interesting example of commercial apparel waste
resulting from purchasing practices that prioritize profit over waste reduction. Event organizers order
two sets of branded merchandise in advance of the game (one set for each contending team) in order to
capitalize on sales immediately after the game when merchandise featuring the game winners is in high
demand. But this practice automatically creates waste: only one set will be merchandise worth selling;
the other will be considered waste before it even hits the market.
Challenges
The following challenges illustrate why apparel waste from retail activities ends up as waste:
Responsibility: Brands and retailers are disconnected from the end fate of the garments they
produce and experience little control of what happens to the apparel they sell.
Low cost of fast fashion: Low-cost, mass-produced apparel encourages the continual purchase
of new items with short lifespans.
High cost of slow fashion: With competition from fast fashion, more-expensive slow fashion
may not have the demand necessary to sustain businesses using this production model.
Consumer behaviour: Inexpensive fast fashion helps to fuel consumer demand for the latest
trend, and this demand creates a market for fast fashion.
Consumer awareness: Consumers lack knowledge about the impacts of their fashion
consumption habits (e.g., polluting microplastics are generated from washing plastic clothing).
Consumer apathy: The average consumer is typically more concerned with being “on trend” and
saving money than with the social and environmental impacts of apparel production, whether
those impacts occur locally or far from home.
Transparency of business practices: Consumers rely on brands and retailers for product
information, but these businesses may not reveal the negative impacts of their business
practices.
Low awareness: Apparel companies may lack an understanding of the impacts of waste and the
role that the design phase plays in waste outcomes.
Convenience: Finding alternative solutions to dealing with damaged and excess productrather
than simply putting it in the garbage bin at the back of the store—is perceived as complex and
costly.
34 Clark, “SLOW + FASHION-an Oxymoron-or a Promise for the Future…?,” 427-446.
35 Fletcher, “Slow Fashion: An Invitation for Systems Change,” 259-265.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
27
Lack of accessibility to affordable and sustainable fashion alternatives: Most mainstream retail
establishments lack substantial selections of sustainable clothing, and such alternatives are
often expensive.
Activity 3: Own and Maintain
Generation of Apparel Waste
The number of garments purchased each year by the average consumer has increased by 60% from
2000 to 2014. According to a survey of two thousand women in the UK, the average clothing item was
only worn an average of seven times before being discarded.36 A separate study found one third of
British women considered clothing “old” after only three wears.37 These figures show the trend towards
buying new apparel rather than maintaining the garments we already have. The shift towards fast
fashion drives this trend since low-quality garments more quickly become damaged and worn out, and it
is often cheaper to purchase new clothing rather than repair or alter the clothing we already own. The
issue is compounded by the loss of sewing and other apparel maintenance skills by consumers.38, 39
To address this issue, some forward-thinking retailers offer a range of repair services to customers
from a voucher for the nearest drycleaner/repair shop to in-store service. Unfortunately, turnaround
time for repair can sometimes be longer than customers are willing or able to wait (e.g., a customer may
not want to go a week or more without a rain jacket in November). Therefore, for warranty and product
defect returns, customers often opt for on-the-spot replacement products over repair. In these cases, if
the defect is minor, forward-thinking companies donate the returned garment to a local charity or sell it
to a staff member at a discount. Some companies, such as Patagonia, also provide guides explaining how
customers can repair garments themselves.
In addition to individual consumers, other significant apparel consumers are businesses, institutions, and
other organizations that purchase uniforms and other garments for staff, employees, volunteers,
promotion, and so forth. These items are often branded with an organization’s logo. Their care and
maintenance may be arranged by the organization (e.g., through a linen and uniform service company).
Challenges
The following issues contribute to higher volumes of post-consumer apparel waste:
Increased consumption: Consumers buy more and own it for less time, enabled by the shift
towards fast fashion business models.
Skill and knowledge: Most consumers do not have the sewing skills and knowledge of apparel
care to repair their clothing.
36 Style that’s sustainable: A new fast-fashion formula,” McKinsey & Company (Nathalie Remy, Eveline Speelman, and Steven
Swartz), accessed November 2017, https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability-and-resource-
productivity/our-insights/style-thats-sustainable-a-new-fast-fashion-formula.
37 “Once worn, thrice shy British women’s wardrobe habits exposed!” Bernardos Retail, last modified June 11, 2015,
http://www.barnardos.org.uk/news/press_releases.htm?ref=105244.
38 Anneli Palmsköld, “Reusing Textiles: On Material and Cultural Wear and Tear,Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural
Research 7 (2015): 31-43.
39 Pamela A. Norum, “Examination of Apparel Maintenance Skills and Practices: Implications for Sustainable Clothing
Consumption,Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal 42/2 (2013): 124–137.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
28
Relative cost and inconvenience of maintenance and repair: As a result of fast fashion, the
overall quality and therefore the lifespan of apparel has decreased significantly in the last
decade. Fast fashion encourages consumers to throw out damaged apparel and buy new low-
cost items instead of investing in the maintenance and repair of their wardrobes. The net result
is a higher volume of low-quality materials in the used apparel system and being sent for
disposal.
Diverted Apparel
Activity 4: Collect and Sort
This activity is characterized by successive processes of sorting apparel, each of which is an opportunity
for extending the useful life of apparel items or extracting value from their constituent materials.
A well-developed network of collecting and sorting infrastructure already handles many types of apparel
waste generated by “new apparel” activities 1, 2 and 3.
Residential (Post-consumer) Apparel Waste
When it comes to post-consumer apparel from the residential sector, the first sort is conducted by
consumers as they decide how to get rid of unwanted clothing: by repurposing it, giving it to family or
friends, donating it, selling it, or throwing it in the garbage.40, 41 Consumers have several options for
discarding their unwanted apparel (Table 4).
Part of the reason valuable apparel goes to disposal is that consumers do not have the expertise
required to identify the value of unwanted apparel, and differences between what various collecting
organizations accept make it difficult for the average consumer to properly select which items are
suitable for donation. For example, a shrunken cashmere sweater with several holes in it is of higher
value to a sorter-grader than a polyester-cotton blend t-shirt in perfect condition. There is inherent
value left in these discarded textiles; approximately 95% of apparel disposed as garbage is reusable or
recyclable.42
Despite the many options for unwanted apparel, residents in the greater Vancouver area are throwing
away 59 kg of clothing per capita per year (Figure 9). Researchers in Ontario found that 92% of
surveyed consumers knew where to donate their clothing, but reported disposing 3850% of their
unwanted clothing.43
40 Sally A. Hibbert, Suzanne Horne, and Stephen Tagg. “Charity retailers in competition for merchandise: examining how
consumers dispose of used goods.” Journal of Business Research 58 (2005): 819-828.
41 Palmsköld, “Reusing Textiles: On Material and Cultural Wear and Tear,31-43.
42 Cascadia Consulting Group, Post-Consumer Textiles: King County Linkup Research Summary Report (King County, WA: King
County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, 2015).
43 Sabine Weber, Jennifer Lynes, and Steven B. Young, “Fashion interest as a driver for consumer textile waste management:
reuse, recycle or disposal,” International Journal of Consumer Studies 41/2 (2017): 207–215.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
29
Figure 9 Per Capita Annual Disposal of Clothing in the Greater Vancouver Area (kg/person) 44 , 45
Several factors affect which method consumers use to divert clothing from disposal. Both convenience
and familiarity with each option influence whether consumers swap, sell or donate, and which charities
or businesses they choose to support.46
Many consumers also desire that their unwanted apparel go to someone in need, or in some way help
the wider community. One study concludes that this desire is partly driven by feelings of guilt associated
with discarding usable apparel.47 Trust therefore becomes an important factor when donating apparel,
and consumers tend to choose organizations who they believe will fulfill their promises to help needful
people and communities.48 As a result, many charities are involved (through a variety of partnership
arrangements) in collecting post-consumer apparel. This trust is especially important because
consumers typically do not fully understand what happens to their donated items. Apprehension about
donating items is likely due to unfamiliarity with the complicated nature of collection and sorting
activities, but also conflicting accounts about the social and environmental impacts of exporting used
apparel.49
44 Tetra Tech EBA Inc., 2015 Waste Composition Monitoring Program (Burnaby, BC: Metro Vancouver, 2016).
45 Tetra Tech EBA Inc., 2016 Waste Composition Monitoring Program (Burnaby, BC: Metro Vancouver, 2016).
46 Kathryn Koch and Tanya Domina, “Consumer Textile Recycling as a Means of Solid Waste Reduction,Family and Consumer
Sciences Research Journal 28/1 (1999): 3–17.
47 Palmsköld, “Reusing Textiles: On Material and Cultural Wear and Tear,31-43.
48 Palmsköld, “Reusing Textiles: On Material and Cultural Wear and Tear,” 31-43.
49 For conflicting accounts, see: Eleanor Goldberg, “These African Countries Don’t Want Your Used Clothing Anymore,”
Huffington Post, September 19, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/these-african-countries-dont-want-your-used-
clothing-anymore_us_57cf19bce4b06a74c9f10dd6; Lily Kuo, “To Stop Relying on Western Hand-me-downs, African Countries
Are Importing Chinese Textile Companies,” Quartz Africa, November 28, 2016, https://qz.com/661463/a-chinese-garment-
factory-is-helping-rwanda-wean-itself-from-western-hand-me-downs/; Kylie Kiunguyu, “Rwanda Will Proceed with the Ban on
Used Clothes Despite Threats by the United States,” This Is Africa, July 6, 2017, https://thisisafrica.me/rwanda-will-proceed-
ban-used-clothes-despite-threats-united-states/.
2.1
4.6
4.0
8.6
0.0
5.0
10.0
2015 2016
Single Family Multi-Family
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
30
Table 4 Options for Discarding Post-consumer Apparel Waste
Option
Description
Repurposing
Using unwanted clothes as household cleaning rags or for other
consumer uses
Handing down or
swapping
Consumer to
consumer
Passing on garments to family, friends, and others, sometimes
facilitated by social media (e.g., Facebook groups)
Selling
Selling garments directly to other consumers, often facilitated by
online platforms such as Facebook or Craigslist
Resell or consignment
store
Taking items to a second-hand store that purchases clothing directly
from consumers for resale, or sells items on a consignment basis
(includes some e-commerce platforms)
Donating
Donation bin
Placing garments in donation bins located throughout the region,
operated by bulk collectors, thrift stores or sorter-graders
Residential pickup
Scheduling a time with a bulk collector, thrift store, sorter-grader or
clothing-provider charity to pick up items directly from residences
Clothing drive
Dropping garments off at a specially organized event for collecting
clothing
Thrift store
Taking items directly to second-hand stores that resell them, often as
a charitable enterprise
Take-back program
Bringing garments back to retailers who take back their own brands
and/or other brands
Clothing-provider
charities
Charities that collect specific items of apparel to distribute directly to
individuals in need
Disposing
Placing apparel in garbage containers
Managing Residential (Post-consumer) Apparel Waste
What happens to post-consumer apparel after it is sold or donated is not well understood by
consumers, or even by many apparel industry stakeholders. Figure 10 reveals that the diversion options
available to consumers follow an ordered sequence of material flows.
Resell and consignment stores commonly donate unsold inventory to clothing-provider charities, thrift
stores or bulk collectors. Donation bins are used by bulk collectors, sorter-graders and thrift stores to
collect items. Bulk collectors operate by selling what they collect to thrift stores or sorter-graders. Thrift
stores donate some unsold inventory to clothing-provider charities and/or sell it to sorter-graders. Along
the way, some of this material is disposed to landfills and incinerators.
The majority of discarded post-consumer apparel, however, makes its way to sorter-graders. From
there, apparel is sold on global reuse, repurpose, and recycling markets. If no end-market can be found
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
31
for materials, then sorter-graders dispose them as garbage. Each of these stakeholders is described in
further detail below.
Figure 10 Flows of Post-consumer Apparel Waste50
50 This figure is a derivative of “Apparel and Apparel Waste Flows in the Greater Vancouver Area (October 27, 2017 revision)” by
City of Vancouver in collaboration with Leverage Lab Collaborative for Textiles, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License. Refer to Figure A3.1 in Appendix 3.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
32
Resell and Consignment
Resell and consignment stores are often very selective when sorting materials and not all items
consumers bring in may be accepted. Since consignment stores are very selective about what they
accept in the first place, unsold materials are assumed to be of a high quality and in good condition.
Unsold items are typically offered back to the consignee (who has to make a new decision about what to
do with them) or donated to clothing-provider charities, thrift stores, or bulk collectors.
E-Commerce
Many online businesses allow customers to buy and sell post-consumer apparel online. Thredup.com
and Swap.com are examples of resell and consignment that exist entirely online, but brick-and-mortar
consignment and thrift stores increasingly offer online shopping as well.51 Some e-commerce only
facilitates consumer-to-consumer swaps and sales (e.g., Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Kijiji).
Donation Bins
Bulk collectors, thrift stores and sorter-graders all operate donation bins as a way to collect post-
consumer apparel. Donation bins can be a convenient option for donating clothing, but also present
several issues. There is mounting pressure on local and regional governments, from bin operators and
the public, to play an active role in addressing these issues. Donation bins are placed, sometimes
without authorization, on both private and public property. Bin placement and maintenance can be
challenging: the bin may block the use or function of street infrastructure, such as bus stops, parking
spaces, and sidewalks; collectors may find their bins damaged or inaccessible; and considerable
competition exists between bin operators for locations, especially in the more affluent neighborhoods in
the region. Local governments are receiving an increasing number of complaints about donation bins,
including frequent incidents of illegal dumping near bins.
Bulk Collection
Bulk collectors do not further sort collected materials, but sell their inventory by weight to thrift stores
and sorter-graders. Bulk collectors report having to dispose materials if they get wet or contaminated as
well as any items dumped outside donation bins that they are unable to sell. Many bulk collectors also
offer scheduled residential pick-ups to collect materials, but report this collection method can be
prohibitively expensive.52 Bulk collection of apparel (and other household goods) is commonly used to
raise funds for charity.
Thrift Stores
Thrift stores, including both non-profit and for-profit organizations, sort collected materials according to
what they will display for sale in-store. Thrift stores in the region estimate that 30% of collected
materials are put out for sale, and of that, between 25% and 35% is actually sold to customers.53 Some
thrift stores allow individuals in need to obtain clothing for free. A small portion of materials is sent to
disposal, typically if items are wet, stained, or visibly dirty. Clothing deemed not suitable for the sales
rack and unsold clothing are handled differently depending on the store. They may be donated to
51 Brenda Parker and Rachel Weber, “Second-Hand Spaces: Restructuring Retail Geographies in an Era of E-Commerce,Urban
Geography 34/8 (2013): 1096–1118.
52 Surveys completed by Leverage Lab Collaborative for Textiles participants, January 18, 2017; and follow-up interviews
conducted by City of Vancouver, January to February 2017.
53 Surveys and interviews conducted by Metro Vancouver and City of Vancouver, October 2016 to August 2017.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
33
clothing-provider charities, sold to sorter-graders (both regional and overseas), or sent to disposal. Some
businesses operating thrift stores sell their unsold materials directly to reuse and recycling markets
located overseas.
Clothing-Provider Charities
Clothing-provider charities collect apparel to distribute directly to individuals in need, and tend to
accept only specific items according to their charitable mandate (e.g., warm outerwear, interview
outfits, prom dresses, etc.). Some thrift stores serve a similar function as clothing-provider charities and
donate some inventory directly to individuals in need (e.g. through a voucher program). It should be
noted that none of the participants in Leverage Lab Collaborative for Textiles were solely a clothing-
provider charity. Further research is needed to understand how these stakeholders collect materials,
and whether they generate any apparel waste.
Other Charities
Numerous charities are supported by funds raised through the sale of post-consumer apparel. In the
greater Vancouver area, bulk collectors, sorter-graders and thrift stores are known to partner with at
least 45 different registered charities. Bulk collectors, sorter-graders and thrift stores may be non-profit
or for-profit entities, or hold charitable status themselves, and a wide variety of partnership
arrangements determine who is responsible for collection, where materials end up, and how the charity
will benefit from the arrangement. Unfortunately, some collectors have been reported to falsely
advertise themselves as charities, or advertise partnership with fabricated charities. This deception can
create distrust among consumers and impede participation in legitimate donation programs.54
Retailer Take-back Programs
Some retailers offer take-back programs for apparel, which often are open to apparel from all brands,
not just those they sell. There are many ways to design these take-back programs, but one operating
model is to sell collected materials to a sorter-grader, located either in the greater Vancouver area or
overseas. Other take-back programs may repair and resell items from brands they sell or may recycle
collected materials to manufacture new products to be sold in their stores.
I:CO runs a worldwide network for the collection and processing of used apparel for reuse and recycling,
and it manages take-back programs for 40 retail partners globally,55 including several large retailers with
stores in the greater Vancouver area (e.g., H&M, American Eagle Outfitters, and The North Face;
however, not all stores in the greater Vancouver area have implemented the program). These programs
accept apparel from any brand, in any condition. Apparel collected through these programs within the
greater Vancouver area may be sold by I:CO to regional sorter-graders or transported out of the greater
Vancouver area for processing elsewhere.
Sorter-Graders
Sorters and graders (sorter-graders) conduct a detailed process to sell materials to reuse and recycling
markets. They consolidate much of the apparel diverted within the region and sort items into
approximately 400 different categories according to type, condition, fibre blend, and other criteria
depending on which end markets have contracts with the sorter-grader. Since each sorter-grader has
54 Personal communications with Dr. Calvin Lakhan, July 12, 2017.
55 “Creating the future,” I:CO, accessed November 14, 2017, http://www.ico-spirit.com/en/homepage/mission/.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
34
contracts for different end markets, the specifications to which they sort materials vary, and as a result,
regional sorter-graders also buy and sell materials between themselves. Materials are ultimately sold to
be reused as apparel, or repurposed or recycled to make new products, primarily to overseas markets in
Europe, Asia, Central America, and Africa.56 Materials for which there is no end market are disposed as
garbage.
The greater Vancouver area is unique, compared to many parts of North America, in that there are
sorter-graders located in the region. As an industry hub for used apparel collection, the greater
Vancouver area is an importer of used clothing, receiving materials from as far away as Manitoba and
Northern California. An estimated 25% of the clothing processed by regional sorter-graders comes from
outside Canada (mainly the US).57 Collectively, the six largest sorter-graders in the greater Vancouver
area estimate that they sell approximately 50% of their total inflows to global reuse markets, repurpose
20% as wiping rags, sell 20% to textile recycling markets, and send 10% to disposal (Figure 11).58
Figure 11 Greater Vancouver Area Sorter-Grader Secondary Markets, 2016 (in tonnes, percent of total tonnes). The reuse and
repurpose of apparel waste from the greater Vancouver area occurs both inside the region and across the globe.
Sorter-graders in the greater Vancouver area report that the rise of fast fashion and disposable clothing
has lowered the quality of collected materials.59 This is a disturbing trend for the used apparel industry
because sorter-graders rely on the sale of a small portion of high-value materials to stay profitable.
High-value materials include couture clothing and accessories, trendy vintage items, and luxury fibres for
new yarn production.60 For example, sorter-graders in the US have sold vintage Levi’s jeans for $10,000
56 SORT BC survey, June 22, 2017.
57 SORT BC survey, June 22, 2017.
58 SORT BC survey, June 22, 2017.
59 Personal communications with SORT BC members, March 24, 2017.
60 Jana M. Hawley, “Digging for Diamonds: A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Reclaimed Textile Products,Clothing
and Textiles Research Journal 24/3 (2006): 262–275.
Reuse
16,110
50%
Recycling
6,440
20% Wiper Rags
6,440
20%
Disposal
3,220
10%
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
35
$20,000 (USD). 61 These “diamonds” represent only 1%–2% of the total volume of collected materials,
but their sale permits sorter-graders to continue the less profitable operations that divert huge volumes
of textiles from disposal.62 A net devaluing of used apparel streams threatens the ability of sorter-
graders to stay in business and in turn jeopardizes the operations model of the numerous businesses
and charities that rely on these companies for a reliable revenue stream.
Competition for Materials
Collecting and sorting activity in the region is a complex mix of non-profit and for-profit organizations.
For-profit businesses, including sorter-graders and thrift stores such as Value Village, purchase much of
their inventory by weight from non-profit entities, including many bulk collectors. The benefit to for-
profit businesses is the ability to supplement or fully meet their supply requirements. The benefit to
non-profits is the ability to raise money for their charitable causes. In addition, many for-profit entities
in the greater Vancouver area are aligned with a non-profit organization whereby the charity receives a
portion of revenues generated from donated materials, even without conducting collection activities
themselves.
Ultimately, all types of post-consumer apparel collectors compete with one another for materials;
however, some collectors assert that non-profit and charitable programs should be given priority over
for-profit entities. In contrast, for-profit businesses assert that they are able to support small local
charities that do not have sufficient funding to run a donation bin program. Bulk collectors that operate
with the purpose of supporting a specific charity also reported partnering with short-term local
fundraising efforts, such as raising funds for youth soccer team jerseys.
Challenges
Current practices in collecting, sorting, and grading reveal a variety of challenges to reducing apparel
waste:
Voluntary participation: Donating or otherwise diverting textiles from disposal is voluntary.
Consumer motivation: The extra work requiredreal and perceivedcombined with apathy or
a lack of awareness about the need to divert textiles from disposal prevents consumers from
diverting unwanted apparel.
Inconsistent messaging: There is conflicting information about what materials should be
donated and where (e.g., only gently used apparel versus apparel in any condition).
Value identification: Most consumers are not able to identify the value of materials or ensure
that they reach organizations with the means to sort materials according to their best and
highest value.
Social value: Consumers are hesitant to donate materials when they do not feel confident that
their donations will benefit the communities they go to.
Global impact: Reports about the social and environmental impacts of global reuse and
recycling markets for used apparel are conflicting. Some consumers are reluctant to donate for
fear of negatively impacting developing countries.
Industry data: Data on quantity and quality of the material collected is not readily available.
61 Jana M. Hawley, “Digging for Diamonds: A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Reclaimed Textile Products,Clothing
and Textiles Research Journal 24/3 (2006): 262–275.
62 Jana M. Hawley, “Digging for Diamonds: A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Reclaimed Textile Products,Clothing
and Textiles Research Journal 24/3 (2006): 262–275.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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Market fluctuations: Sorter-graders are vulnerable to fluctuations in market pricesboth the
purchase price from inflow sources and sale price to overseas marketsas well as shipping
costs. Fluctuations of only a few cents make the difference between being profitable or not.
High-volume business model: Sorter-graders need to acquire enough high-value materials to
compensate for the cost of sorting and processing the low-value materials. Inundation of this
market with a high volume of low-quality textiles, such as from fast fashion, throws this business
model out of balance. Sorter-graders are driven to be more selective about what materials they
purchase.
Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional Apparel Waste
Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional (ICI) apparel waste refers to the pre- and post-consumer waste
generated by industry (e.g., manufacturing off-cuts, samples, unused fabric bolts, roll-ends), commercial
business (e.g., excess inventory, defective and damaged apparel, apparel branded with business logos),
and institutions (e.g., uniforms, apparel branded with institutional logos). (The generation of these
waste streams are described in Activities 1, 2, and 3.) Some ICI apparel waste may be managed using the
same processes as post-consumer apparel waste, but dedicated collection and sorting infrastructure
that can address the unique characteristics of this waste stream is lacking.
Most local pre-consumer ICI waste is generated during manufacturing (e.g., local cut-and-sew) and is
considered more desirable for closed-loop recycling markets if it is clean and in large quantities.
However, one cannot underestimate the challenge of sorting manufacturing off-cuts from a factory that
processes a range of fabrics of different fibre types, or the challenge of consistently collecting a large
enough volume of this material to make it valuable to processors. Subsequently, reports of what
happens to this material vary from brand to brand. For example, one brand that uses almost exclusively
cotton reported that their cut-and-sew contractors had a recycling market for the off-cuts, which they
participated in to save money on disposal. In contrast, a brand with small quantities of mixed fabric off-
cuts was unable to find an economical recycling solution. In general, it seems that most brands are
unaware of what their cut-and-sew contractors do with this material, or what they could do to divert it.
Brands and retailers, along with some institutions and corporations, often prefer destruction via
incineration, or seek specialized processing, if the material has any of the follow characteristics:
Proprietary information: Apparel brands need to protect their investment in trademarked fibre
blends, customized finishing treatments, and more, therefore requiring assurance that materials
will not be acquired by potential competitors.
Brand value: The symbolic status and subsequent market value of certain apparel brands is in
part communicated through sales channels, and therefore some apparel brands have strict
requirements for how their products are made available to consumers.
Public image: The potential for negative consumer attention should an apparel brand or retailer
be connected to wasteful practices prompts these organizations to seek secure disposal
methods for branded products.
Security risk: Certain institutional wear carries a security risk, and it is in the public interest to
ensure it is not available outside secure channels. For example, police, military or firefighter
uniforms acquired from unsecure disposal methods may allow these professionals to be
impersonated.
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Institutions and corporations with branded apparel have excess inventory and worn, non-reusable
garments such as uniforms, special event t-shirts, or any other apparel carrying their logos. Unbranded
apparel is often consolidated with this waste stream, such as unbranded pants worn as part of a uniform
with a branded shirt. These materials end up being thrown out as garbage, donated to various charities,
or sent to sorter-graders. Alternatively, such materials are managed by specialized sorter-grader
operations that do secure sorting and certified destruction.
Table 5 summarizes the ways in which ICI apparel waste is currently managed.
Table 5 Industrial, Commercial, Institutional Apparel Waste Management Options
Option
Description
Discount retail
Selling unsold or damaged/defective apparel or fabric to a
discounter (e.g., fabric jobber, auctioneer, liquidator, off-
price retailer), who will attempt to sell to consumers at a
lower price than the brand or full-price retailer, or via
sample and warehouse sales
Sorter-grader
Selling apparel, unused fabric, and off-cuts to a business
that will sort and grade materials for local or overseas
markets
Secure sorting and certified destruction
Hiring a business to sort and grade unwanted branded
apparel and proprietary fabric for pre-approved local or
overseas markets; or destruction
Donation
Donating unsold or damaged/defective apparel and fabric
to a bulk collector, thrift store, clothing-provider charity,
education institute or other organization
Disposal
Placing apparel, unused fabric, and off-cuts in garbage
containers
Managing Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional Apparel Waste
Discount Retail
To deal with excess and damaged or defective inventory, manufacturers, apparel brands, and retailers
can hold sample sales or warehouse sales. Alternatively, excess inventory and unused fabric can be sold
to auctioneers, liquidators, or off-price retailers who sell at below retail prices. Discounted materials
that remain unsold may be sold to sorter-graders and eventually go to global reuse or recycling markets,
or may be thrown out as garbage.
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Secure Sorting and Certified Destruction
Secure sorting and certified destruction businesses process materials for reuse, repurposing, or recycling
like a regular sorter-grader, but guarantee their customers’ materials will only be sold to pre-approved
end markets. This allows apparel brands, retailers, and institutions to ensure their textile waste is
diverted from disposal while still addressing concerns about proprietary information, brand image, and
security risks. A variety of options are available. For example, customers of these businesses may
approve their materials to be shredded for recycling but not to be sold for reuse overseas. Debrand is a
regional example of a company dedicated to this service. Debrand estimates that 95% of materials
received for secure sorting and certified destruction go towards textiles recycling markets, and 5% go to
disposal.63
Donation
Instead of trying to sell excess or damaged inventory, manufacturers, brands, and retailers may choose
to donate. Fabric bolts and roll-ends may be donated to young designers and educational institutions
such as Kwantlen Polytechnic University for its fashion and technical apparel design programs. In
Vancouver, the non-profit organization, Our Social Fabric, accepts donations of unused fabric for resell
to consumers and small business. Apparel may be donated to clothing-provider charities such as Dress
for Success or Brands for Canada, which distribute items directly to low-income and other needful
communities. A limitation of these donation options is their capacity to process and store large volumes
of material. Donation to bulk collectors and thrift stores is also an option, though concerns around
brand value and proprietary information make this less common. Some apparel brands donate with the
condition that the garments must be sold overseas, or that their logos must be removed.
Challenges
Business Sensitivity: As detailed above in ICI apparel waste challenges such as proprietary
fabrics or designs, brand value, public image, and security risk (for uniforms) result in some
businesses choosing secure destruction over reuse.
Storage and processing: Waste materials require people to sort them and space to be stored
until they can be redistributed to various end markets.
Awareness: Apparel brands and retailers may be unaware of the diversion options for their
apparel waste.
Activity 5: Reuse and Repurpose
Reuse of apparel refers to clothing being worn again as clothing (after being discarded by the original
owner). Repurposing apparel means using clothing for something other than its original intended use.
Repurposing includes altering clothing to make new products, but differs from recycling in that clothing
is not broken down to its previous state (fibre) first.
Global Reuse
The majority of used apparel from the greater Vancouver area is sold outside of the region. Sorter-
graders currently sell an estimated 50% of their collected materials to global reuse markets in Africa,
Asia, Central America, and Europe.64 The majority of used clothing sold overseas goes to developing
countries.
63 Personal communications with Debrand, September 22, 2017.
64 SORT BC survey, June 22, 2017.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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There is demand for used apparel in developed nations, although the demand is mainly for vintage and
higher-quality items. Some second-hand stores (both non-profit and for-profit), and especially collectible
and vintage retailers, source a portion of their inventory from sorter-graders. Less than 1% of regional
sorter-graders’ inventory is sold for this kind of niche resell, and goes primarily to North America, the
UK, and Japan.65
While global reuse markets are a critical path for diverting materials from disposal, there is little
information on the ultimate end fate of these materials. Sorter-graders in the greater Vancouver area
report that the apparel they acquire has to be of saleable quality or they will quickly go out of business,
as the markets in developing countries will stop buying from them.
A common argument against the export of clothing to developing countries is that it has a negative
impact on the domestic textile industry, specifically in Africa, where most of the second-hand clothing is
sold. However, research from the Nordic Council of Ministers on the exports of used textiles found that
the issue is much more complex and cannot simply be attributed to used textiles flooding the market.
There is evidence that aging infrastructure and inefficient industry made it difficult for new textile
manufactures in Africa to compete with cheap new clothing imports from Asia when the trade barriers
were removed the late 1990s and early 2000s.66
The used clothing market provides jobs to tens of thousands in the formal retail sector and large
informal retail sector in the receiving countries.67
In many African countries, over 80% of the population dress themselves in second-hand clothing.68
Bureau of International Recycling
Long-term stability of the global reuse market is uncertain. India already restricts the import of second-
hand clothing to mutilated garments (recycled into low-cost blankets), or requires importers to acquire a
licence on the condition that they will re-export 100% of wearable second-hand garments.69 Several East
African countries are also seeking to impose a complete ban on the import of second-hand clothing,
asserting that it compromises both citizens’ dignity and efforts to develop local manufacturing.70
65 SORT BC survey, June 22, 2017.
66 David Watson and David Palm, “Exports of Nordic Used Textiles: Fate, benefits and impacts” (Denmark: Nordic Council of
Ministers, 2016).
67 Watson and Palm, “Exports of Nordic Used Textiles: Fate, benefits and impacts.”
68 Bureau of International Recycling. “Textiles.” http://www.bir.org/industry/textiles/?locale=en_US
69 Namrata Acharya, “India emerges top importer of used clothes,” Business Standard, last modified October 10, 2015,
http://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/india-emerges-top-importer-of-used-clothes-115100800540_1.html.
70 Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, “For Dignity and Development, East Africa Curbs Used Clothes Imports,” New York Times, October
12, 2017, https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/10/12/world/africa/east-africa-rwanda-used-
clothing.html?referer=https://t.co/tqQ31Ffbx5?t=1&cn=ZmxleGlibGVfcmVjc18y&refsrc=email&iid=6efea2e2a6a3487b862800c
6f9d22bad&uid=3163864677&nid=244+272699399.
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Regional Reuse
In the greater Vancouver area, consumers can purchase used apparel through local consumer-to-
consumer forums (e.g., Craigslist, clothing swaps), second-hand resell or consignment stores, and
second-hand thrift stores. Used apparel also enters and exits the region via out-of-region transactions,
especially aided by e-commerce platforms, such as eBay.
The resale of fabric is less common, but consumers can find fabric bolts and yardage at Our Social Fabric
and occasionally at thrift stores. Our Social Fabric is a non-profit organization that diverts textiles from
disposal by reselling donated fabric to consumers. It is able to process a continuous flow of fabric bolts
and roll-ends but must turn away particularly large donations to not exceed its available storage
capacity.
Repurpose
The manufacture of wiping rags from used apparel is one option for damaged, unwearable, or
unmarketable cotton textiles. Wiping rags are used in many industries for all manner of cleaning tasks
(e.g., cleaning and polishing cars, machine parts, equipment, facilities, etc.). A small amount of this kind
of apparel waste repurposing takes place within the greater Vancouver area. Sorter-grader Trans-
Continental Textile Recycling cuts up apparel waste (cotton, primarily)for which there is no reuse or
recycling marketto make wiping rags at its facility in the greater Vancouver area. Other sorter-graders
in the greater Vancouver area send cotton fibrebased inventory that cannot be sold for reuse or
recycling to Trans-Continental Textiles Recycling, or send the material to out-of-province or overseas
facilities to be cut into wiping rags. Sorter-graders in the greater Vancouver area currently sell an
estimated 20% of their materials for wiping rags. 71
Another example of repurposing is to develop new garments or products with apparel waste and other
textile waste. For example, some clothing designers alter used apparelvintage, especiallyto make
new clothing, which is sometimes referred to as “reworked vintage.” Some businesses, such as
Looptworks, tonlé, and Offcut Caps™, use textile waste from a variety of industries to make new
garments and accessories.
On a local scale, one of the Leverage Lab Collaborative for Textiles participants started a new business
called FABCYCLE, which aims at tackling textile waste by connecting local designers and crafters with
material destined for disposal, such as manufacturing off-cuts. The priority for FABCYCLE is to find
repurpose options for the scraps by engaging the creative community. Scraps that cannot be repurposed
are recycled, and those that cannot be recycled are sent to the local waste-to-energy facility.
Challenges
Current practices in reuse and repurpose reveal a variety of challenges to reducing disposal of apparel
waste:
Global trade restrictions: Diverting used apparel for other uses across global markets is
obstructed by import and export restrictions in developing countries (e.g., India), which are
typically the biggest marketplaces for used apparel.
Tracking: Collecting data on how much material goes to different reuse end markets is difficult.
71 SORT BC survey, June 22, 2017.
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Consumer perception: Some consumers associate second-hand apparel with lower
socioeconomic status or fear that garments are unclean. Some find it inconvenient to look for a
certain style at second-hand apparel stores.
Low cost of fast fashion: Low-cost, mass-produced apparel discourages the purchase of used
items that may be marketed at a similar price.
Demand and storage: Organizations lack the space to store apparel and fabric until they are in
demand (based on trends and seasonality).
Activity 6: Recycle
Textile and apparel recycling refers to processes that produce new fabric and yarn (closed-loop
recycling) as well as processes that shred apparel to make insulation or fill products (open-loop
recycling, or down-cycling). The viability of the recycling method depends on a variety of factors: the
fibre blend, the quality of the material, the presence of notions (e.g. trims, zippers and threads), the use
of dyes and chemicals, and the availability of end markets. Availability of end markets depends on the
cost of the virgin commodities, such as the price of oil compared to the price of recycled material.
Globally, only a limited amount of apparel is recycled. The US Environmental Protection Agency
estimates that nearly seven times more apparel and footwear waste generated in the US was put into
landfills and incinerators than recycled in 2013.72 Sorter-graders in the greater Vancouver area currently
sell an estimated 20% of their materials for recycling. 73
Table 6 - Summary of Global Closed-Loop and Open-Loop Recycling Options by Fibre Type, 2016
Fibre
% of World
Fibres74
High-Value Closed-
Loop Recycling
Medium-Value
Open-Loop
Recycling
Low-Value Open-
Loop Recycling
Polyester
55%
Limited Chemical
Recycling
emergency
blankets
insulation
geosynthetics
Cotton
22%
Respinning
denim
“t-shirt
cotton”
Wool
1.3%
Respinning
Other Plastic
13.3%
Limited
Other Natural
6%
N/A
72 United States Environmental Protection Agency, Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures 2013 (June
2015), 71, https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-09/documents/2013_advncng_smm_rpt.pdf. Only 1.6 million
tonnes of apparel and footwear waste generated in the US in 2013 was recovered through recycling (in the US or through global
markets), compared with 11.1 million tonnes sent to landfills and incinerators. Recovery data does not include materials that
were reused or repurposed.
73 SORT BC survey, June 22, 2017.
74 Textiles Exchange. Preferred Fibre and Materials Market Report 2017. 2017
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Closed-Loop Recycling
Closed-loop recycling, where pre-consumer manufacturing scraps and post-consumer apparel are made
into new garments, is done through either chemical or mechanical recycling processes (Figure 12). In the
absence of company or government policies that require recycled content, the economic feasibility as
well as the technical feasibility must be considered when reviewing the feasibility of closed-loop
recycling. In a market driven system, the cost of the recycled input generally need to be lower than the
cost of the virgin alternative to make the recycling viable. Very few companies are willing to pay a
premium for recycled materials. In contrast, they will likely expect a discount.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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Figure 12 Secondary Markets for Post-Consumer and Post-Industrial Apparel Waste
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
44
No closed-loop apparel recycling takes place inside the greater Vancouver area.
There is a disconnect between the design and manufacturing of apparel and the recycling potential
of apparel. Current fibre choices for clothing are driven by cost, hand-feel, garment function, and
availability. Recyclability of the garment is not a key consideration for most mainstream brands. The
most popular fibre, polyester (55% of global fibre production), does not have commercially viable
close-loop recycling options for most mainstream material. Teijin, the only commercial-scale
polyester chemical recycling in the world, accepts only material from their Eco-Circle members.75
High-quality wool apparel (1.3% of global fibre production) is collected and shipped primarily to
Prato, Italy, where a cottage industry of wool recycling re-spins the wool into high-quality yarn.
Cotton apparel (22% of global fibre production) can be re-spun into new fibres. The closest re-
spinning operations to the greater Vancouver area are in the United States. While the mills accept
some post-consumer cotton apparel for re-spinning, most focus on the re-spinning of post-
industrial cotton waste sources, such as off-cuts from apparel manufacturing.
Open-Loop Recycling
Apparel made from low-value blended fibres goes either to disposal or mechanical recycling (typically in
the form of pulling and carding) to make shoddy for use in fill products (e.g., punching bags, gymnasium
mats, automotive insulation, geosynthetics). Such open-loop recycling or “down-cycling” greatly reduces
the possibility of recycling these materials again when these products reach the end of their lifespans.
Very few end markets exist for down-cycled textiles in North America.76
Challenges
Current practices in recycling reveal a variety of challenges to reducing apparel waste to disposal:
Synthetic and blended materials: Consumers and designers like these fabrics for their look,
hand-feel, and easy maintenance, but they are difficult to recycle. Few recyclers will take
blended materials, and blended materials are reduced in value to the lowest component.
Recycling technologies and infrastructure: Full-circle recycling is not available for most fibres.
For fibres that have recycling options, such recycling processes are usually more expensive than
disposal due to logistics and processing costs.
Tracking: Collecting data on how much material goes to recycling markets is difficult.
Fibre end markets: Without profitable markets, businesses will not manufacture recycled textile
products nor invest in the research and development of new recycling technologies.
Global industry: The majority of textile producers are located overseas. It is difficult to create a
level playing field globally with only local and regional influence.
76 Anthony Shackleton, Trans Continental Textiles Recycling, interview, June 2017.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
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Changing requirements: The market for open- and closed-loop recycling demands flexibility on
the part of sorter-graders to adapt to the changing requirements of mills.
Fibre identification: Limited technologies are available or installed for identifying and sorting
clothing by fibre type for closed-loop recycling.
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5 Towards Reduction and Diversion of Apparel Waste
For the fashion industry, maintaining a status quo approach to apparel waste generation and
management will result in:
increased disposal of apparel waste
increased microplastics in aquatic environments
increased toxic dyes and finishing chemicals in waterways
increased harm to the planet and humans due to excessive consumption of resources
increased risk of economic loss; and
increased risk of stricter regulatory control.
It is for these reasons that some of the key players in the fashion industry are strong advocates for
reducing apparel waste to going to disposal. Such a shift towards an industry that is both profitable and
sustainable, will take bold leadership, creative thinking and extensive collaboration.
What Might a Future Without Apparel Waste Look Like?
Leverage Lab Collaborative for Textiles participants imagined a future in which regulatory frameworks
encourage more diversion of apparel to higher-value end products through improved reverse logistics.
For example, the coordination and planning of how to get products back from consumers; extracting the
maximum value of collected products through reselling; recertifying (repair); or recycling the returned
products into new products.
Action Checklist
The following checklist presents the elements of that desired future. Organizations can use these
questions to easily identify actions they can take towards the reduction of apparel waste. The desired
future is one where all apparel companies check all the boxes below.
Policy Does your organization have an internal policy that promotes the use of circular
fibres and circular business practices?
Design Does your organization create products designed for the environment and
waste diversion? (Are your products durable, repairable, and recyclable?)
Business case Does your organization consider the value of apparel end-of-life in the
business model and product design brief?
Transparency Does your organization share information about how your apparel is
manufactured, including chemicals, certifications, and end-of-life recycling options?
Internal education Does your organization make sure that your leaders, designers,
and marketers understand the core concepts of circular fibres and circular business
models to reduce apparel waste?
Collaboration Does your organization participate in events or meetings that include
representation from across the entire supply chain, including the reverse logistics?
E.g., Leverage Lab, Eco-fashion Week, Global Fashion Agenda, Fashion Takes
Action, Sustainable Apparel Coalition
Consumer education Do your customers know what to do with the apparel they
purchase when they are done with it?
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Investment in circular products and business Does your organization invest in
development of circular fibres and reverse logistics infrastructure?
o E.g., Closed Loop Partners, H&M Global Change Award
Reverse-logisticsDoes your organization consider one or more of the following
reverse-logistics options:
o Extend life for customers:
Library lend/rent/or lease models for apparel?
E.g., Rent-frock-Repeat, Flaunt Fashion Library
Repair and refurbishment?
E.g., Contracts with local drycleaners/alternations shops or in-
house repair
E.g., Renewal Workshop
o Collect for local and global reuse:
Partnerships with worn apparel collectors?
E.g., bulk collectors, sorter-graders, or clothing-provider
charities
Return-to-retail, including incentives for customers?
E.g., Store discount for using return-to-retail bins
o Recover fibre for use in new garments:
Closed-loop recycling?
E.g., Evrnu, Teijin, Re:newcell
Manufacturing waste Does your organization actively seek recycling markets for your
off-cuts and design sample waste streams? Does your organization consider methods of
production that minimize waste, such as digital markers to reduce unused fabric, or
additive manufacturing (e.g., 3-D knitting and printing)?
RegulationIs your organization prepared for future regulation that may require
diversion of apparel from disposal?
Places to Intervene in the Current System of Apparel Waste Generation
Five key opportunity areas for change have emerged based on feedback from the Leverage Lab
Collaborative for Textiles, the detailed mapping of the current system, and additional research
contributed by the lab co-conveners:
1. Collaboration: Increase industry collaboration in collection, sorting, recycling, and design for
circularity.
2. Investment: Invest in the development of circular fibres, recycling technology, and collection
infrastructure.
3. Education: Educate consumers, designers, and brands about their role in zero-waste fashion.
4. Policy: Use policy to set a level playing field that supports the reduction of apparel waste.
5. Business Model: Make circular fashion business models the mainstream practice.
These opportunity areas describe actions to decrease generation and disposal of apparel waste. They
also identify some potential actors. Determining who is best positioned to take action is an important
part of the future work towards the reduction of apparel waste. Some opportunitiessuch as
collaboration, education, and starting to invest in research and development of recycling technologies
could be realized in the short term. Creating supporting policies and shifting towards circular fashion as
a mainstream approach will take longer to implement.
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48
Opportunity 1: Collaboration
Increase Industry Collaboration in Collection, Sorting, Recycling, and Design for Circularity
There are benefits to individual organizations making their operations more efficient to reduce their
apparel waste going to disposal, but the biggest potential to reduce apparel waste can only be realized
through collaboration and system-wide implementation. Opportunities such as implementing circular
fibres and having universal access to repair networks will require input and coordination of companies
along the entire value chain. Some brands have a level of vertical integration of their value chain;
however, most companies only operate with in their area of expertise. As witnessed during the Textiles
Leverage Lab, having experts across the value chain discussing options for reducing apparel waste to
disposal leads to better understanding of the challenges and fosters innovative partnerships.
One of the biggest gaps in collaboration in the current system (described in section 4) is between the
generation of apparel (activities 13) and the diversion of apparel (activities 46). There is little
communication or coordination between the apparel products being designed and the facilities that
divert apparel waste. Bridging this gap is critical for reducing apparel waste. The ability for the existing
system of collection, sorting, and recycling to continue to divert textiles depends heavily on the inputs
they get from the generation of new apparel.
Taking Action
Design and Manufacturing (or Remanufacturing)
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Short Term
Arrange tours or produce videos to help apparel designers better understand the
impacts of the waste generated from their designs and what happens to the
various components that they specify. (Academia, Industry)
Translate the systems map into a visual infographic so that it is easier for
stakeholders on the map to see where they fit into the complicated system.
(Collaboration Labs, Associations)
Short to
Medium
Term
Create industry guidelines for how to identify preferred circular fibres at end-of-
life and include them in the design of every garment so that recycling facilities can
identify and recirculate the fibres to the appropriate brands/facilities as inputs.
(Government, Industry, Academia, Associations)
Collaborate with cut-and-sew manufacturer’s to minimize wasted fabric and find
markets for off-cuts. (Entrepreneurs, Academia, Industry)
Sell and Purchase
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Short Term
Connect retailers with charity collectors to increase collection of worn apparel.
(Industry, Government)
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49
Own and Maintain
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Medium
Term
Make connections between apparel companies and thrift stores. Thrift stores
could work with local repair service providers to refurbish donated, returned, and
exchanged apparel so it can be resold locally in stores. (Industry, Government)
Collect and Sort
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Short Term
Work with donation points and sorter-graders to develop a standardized system
of determining how to get the most value of donated apparel, through repairing,
reselling, repurposing, and/or recycling. (Industry)
Medium
Term
Set up an association of textile diversion stakeholders (sorter-graders, thrift
stores, worn apparel collectors) to share knowledge and resources with the goals
of:
o delivering consistent messaging to consumers about how to dispose of
unwanted apparel
o informing producers of ICI apparel waste about material purchasing and
processing costs
o pursuing/developing new markets for recycled textiles, especially within
the region
(Industry)
Organize and publicize annual or semi-annual events where apparel brands and
manufacturers can share their scraps (e.g., a scrap round-up). (Associations,
Industry)
Reuse and Repurpose
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Medium
Term
Investigate what happens to used apparel in countries that import it and
determine what infrastructure is needed to make sure end-of-life clothing is
managed responsibly around the globe.
(Industry, Government)
Work with the non-profit sector to help fund needed collection infrastructure in
countries that import worn apparel (e.g., 1% for the Planet).
(Industry)
Recycle
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Medium
Term
Create a green fashion fund dedicated to funding recycling research and financing
new recycling facilities so that the costs of investment in recycling research and
development and infrastructure is distributed fairly between companies.
(Associations, Industry)
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Opportunity 2: Investment
Invest in the Development of Circular Fibres, Recycling Technology, and Collection Infrastructure
During the Leverage Lab Collaborative for Textiles, participants identified several challenging flows of
materialwhich do not have local markets for diversion. While gently used apparel is commonly
donated, well-used apparel and off-cuts from cut-and-sew shops in the greater Vancouver area less
likely to be diverted from disposal. One brand reported the cost of recycling their off-cuts to be more
than three times the cost of garbage.77 Fierce competition and the lack of regulation to level the playing
field makes doing the responsible thingrecyclinga very difficult business decision for brand owners.
In order to improve the business case for recycling well-worn apparel and cut-and-sew manufacturing
scraps, investment in more efficient reverse logistics and more affordable processing technologies is
needed.
Within the greater Vancouver area there is an exciting opportunity to invest in new ideas, technology,
and infrastructure that will create local green jobs and attract international attention.
Taking Action
Design and Manufacturing (or Remanufacturing)
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Short Term
Invest in innovation for design and manufacturing, such as zero-waste
manufacturing and additive manufacturing. (Industry, Government).
Sell and Purchase
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Short Term
Invest in additional collection points to increase collection of worn apparel for
repair, reuse, and recycling. (Industry, Government)
Set up retailer take-back programs and encourage return of apparel to retailers
(through existing channels) to increase feedstock available for recycling
technologies. (Industry, Government)
Medium
Term
Establish purchasing policies that encourage the use of fibre-to-fibre recycled
content. For example, minimum 10% recycled cotton fibreor other evaluation
criteria encourage supplier proposals that include recycled content. (Industry)
Long Term
Invest in innovation for design and manufacturing, such as zero-waste
manufacturing and additive manufacturing. (Industry, Government, Academia)
77 Personal communications with Leverage Lab Collaborative for Textiles participants, 2017.
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51
Own and Maintain
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Short Term
Invest in innovation for design and manufacturing, such as zero waste
manufacturing and additive manufacturing. (Industry, Government, Academia)
Invest in additional collection points to increase collection of worn-apparel for
reuse, repair and recycling. (Industry, Government)
Set up retailer take-back programs and encourage return of apparel to retailers
(through existing channels) to increase feedstock available for recycling
technologies. (Industry, Government)
Invest in infrastructure for repair, such as darning machines for denim.
Medium
Term
Fund innovation to facilitate customer repairs through web applications that
educate consumers on repair options and nearest repair facilities. (Industry)
Facilitate renting or lending of apparel. (Industry, Government)
Include warranties as well as access to repair and alteration services with the
purchase of new apparel. (Industry)
Long Term
Incentivize consumers to choose to repair their clothes over discarding and
buying new items. (Industry)
Collect and Sort
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Short Term
Fund innovation in fibre identification and sorting to get apparel to the right
recycling end markets. (Industry, Government)
Medium
Term
Invest in, or partner with, businesses that provide collection solutions to
designers and enable manufacturers to recycle cut-and-sew scraps. (Industry,
Government)
Expand secure sorting and corporate destruction services and develop other
infrastructure specifically targeting ICI apparel waste (e.g., manufacturing off-
cuts). (Industry, Government)
Reuse and Repurpose
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Short Term
Invest in, or partner with, businesses to increase local reuse and repurposing of
worn apparel. (Industry, Government)
Divert unbranded institutional wear to reuse markets. (Industry)
Divert unwanted fabric for reuse. (Industry)
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52
Recycle
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Short Term
Fund research to advance recycling of blended textiles. (Industry, Government)
Invest in pre-processing technologies to prepare collected clothing to be sold
directly to international recycling markets (e.g., for insulative uses, fill, and
geosynthetics). (Industry, Government)
Attract open-loop recycling facilities to the Pacific Northwest to improve access to
recycling markets for unwearable clothing. (Industry, Government)
Medium
Term
Develop commercially viable recycling technology that allows currently hard-to-
recycle materials, such as polyester, blends, and chemically treated clothing, to be
recycled into new apparel. (Industry)
Long Term
Support the development of regional and North American markets for products
made with recycled fibres. (Industry, Government)
Create local recycling facilities, particularly for high-volume products. (Industry,
Government)
Opportunity 3: Education
Educate Consumers, Designers, and Brands About Their Role in Zero-Waste Fashion
A key challenge identified by participants in the Leverage Lab Collaborative for Textiles was the lack of
knowledge and understanding of where apparel waste is generated in the current system, the options
for diversion, and which fibres are most suitable for circular fashion business models. While this report
addresses this challenge in Chapter 4 by sharing the current state of apparel waste generation and
management, further work is needed to spread this information to a broader audience and inform
stakeholders system-wide about what they can do to reduce their apparel waste.
Taking Action
Design and Manufacturing (or Remanufacturing)
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Short Term
Create guidelines and maintain supplier lists so designers and manufacturers can
easily learn which fibres and fabrics can be recycled. (Industry, Government)
Medium
Term
Embed circular design and manufacturing into local fashion design school
curriculums. (Government, Industry, Academia, Associations)
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Sell and Purchase
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Short Term
Spread awareness of the impacts of apparel waste. (Industry, Academia,
Government, Associations)
Inform retailers of options for managing their apparel waste, including donation
and secure sorting and certified destruction services. Educate retailers on repair,
reuse, and recycling options for unsold, defective, or damaged items. (Industry,
Government)
Medium
Term
Educate consumers about apparel suitable for reuse and recycling and encourage
the purchase of used clothing. (Government, Industry, Academia, Associations)
Long Term
Promote circular business models to retailers and manufacturers. (Government,
Industry, Academia, Associations)
Own and Maintain
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Short Term
Educate consumers about garment maintenance and repair to extend usable life,
and promote buying for quality over quantity. (Industry, Academia, Government,
Associations)
Provide care and repair instructions online. (Industry)
Short
Medium
Term
Educate consumers about the hierarchy of apparel waste:
o 1st choose long-lasting items and wear them for as long as possible
o 2nd repair, give/return for someone else to wear
o 3rd recycle,
o 4th dispose
(Government, Industry)
Medium
Term
Educate consumers about apparel suitable for reuse and recycling and encourage
the purchase of used clothing. (Government, Industry, Academia, Associations)
Collect and Sort
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Short Term
Develop a web platform to help residents find the nearest donation location.
(Government, Industry, Academia, Associations)
Increase awareness of the many options consumers have to donate worn apparel,
such as clothing drives, donation bins, and pickup services. (Government,
Industry, Academia, Associations)
Reuse and Repurpose
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Short Term
Support marketing campaigns that aim to clarify what is accepted for donation at
thrift shops and donation bins. (Government, Industry)
Recycle
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Short Term
Develop trusted closed-loop certifications and marketing campaigns to create
demand for recycled materials. (Associations, Industry)
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
54
Opportunity 4: Policy
Use Policy to Set a Level Playing Field That Supports the Reduction of Apparel Waste
Forward-thinking apparel brands are already getting ahead of the game and working towards the
reduction of apparel waste. But in order to encourage more businesses to follow suit, regulators need to
create policies that encourage companies to implement circular approaches in their business supply
chains. Without the support of policy makers, forward-thinking apparel companies may struggle to
remain competitive with companies that do not account for the full cost of apparel waste.
Taking Action
Design and Manufacturing (or Remanufacturing)
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Medium
Term
Provide designers and manufacturers with financial incentives for reducing or
diverting their textile waste. (Government, Industry, Associations)
Provide brands and manufactures with financial incentives for continual
improvement towards reduction of apparel waste. (Government, Industry,
Associations)
Sell and Purchase
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Medium
Term
Support existing reuse diversion markets by engaging developing countries (e.g.,
have discussions aimed at reducing threats of second-hand clothing tariff
increases and second-hand clothing import bans). (Government)
Provide retailers with financial incentives for reducing or diverting their apparel
waste. (Government)
Implement policies that require increased transparency, such as disclosure of
recycled content and chemicals, on garment tags. (Government)
Long Term
Monitor the use of harmful chemicals and, if warranted, create import
restrictions and tariffs on unsustainable fabrics and apparel that negatively
impact human health and the environment, as under the Canadian Environmental
Protection Act
78
. (Government, Industry, Associations)
Own and Maintain
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Medium
Term
Adjust or remove sales tax from repair services to encourage consumers to have
garments repaired rather than buy new garments. (Government)
78 E.g., the European Union banned imports of textiles with azo dyes in 2002, whereas Canada recently
lessened reporting requirements for products using azo dyes.
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
55
Collect and Sort
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Short Term
Encourage the placement of donation bins in multi-unit residential buildings.
(Government)
Medium
Term
Provide tax incentives for retailers with take-back programs (Government)
Enact a residential disposal ban on apparel in garbage carts at the municipal level.
(Government)
Develop a strategy and implement policies to improve convenience of collection
locations of the greater Vancouver area. (Government, Associations, Industry)
Enact a regional textile disposal ban once adequate infrastructure is in place to
support such a ban. (Government)
Maintain a list of verified collectors or develop a municipal-branded program to
increase public confidence that donated clothes are being managed responsibly.
(Government, Associations, Industry)
Invest in data to make informed decisions (e.g., conduct waste composition
studies for all sectors and other like studies that increase the understanding of
what happens to end-of-life apparel). (Government, Industry, Associations)
Reuse and Repurpose
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Short Term
Encourage the placement of donation bins in multi-unit residential buildings.
(Government)
Medium
Term
Require the reporting of data to help make informed decisions and measure
progress. (Government, Associations)
Recycle
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Short Term
Encourage investment in recycling infrastructure development. (Government)
Encourage investment in recycling technology development. (Government)
Medium
Term
Created clear guidelines and eventually policies that encourage design for
recycling. (Government, Associations, Industry)
Long Term
Support Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policies at the provincial level.
(Government, Industry, Associations)
Opportunity 5: Business Model
Make Circular Fashion Business Models the Mainstream Practice
Rethinking the current take-make-waste fashion business model with a circular lens has huge potential
to not only reduce apparel waste, but also drive green business innovation. This will, in turn, create local
jobs and put the greater Vancouver area on the map as a leader in sustainable apparel.
In a circular system, materials are viewed as components of a cyclical supply chain: raw materials that
are harvested and manufactured eventually make their way back to being component material for
another round of manufacturing. This eliminates or reduces the need for continued harvesting, and
limits the impacts of resource extraction and manufacturing processes. Circular systems focus on
Unravelling the Problem of Apparel Waste in the Greater Vancouver Area
56
keeping a high standard of material while minimizing both waste and pollution. Therefore, fibres and
textiles are sourced based on sustainable options, such as traceability, recyclability, soil- and forest-
friendly practices, organic certification, non-toxicity, and fair trade. Certification organizations verify and
track materials and processes.
A key part of the development of circular business models will require products that are designed for
such models. Designers need to consider durability, repair, and recyclability as well as functionality. This
type of design may require “thinking outside the box,” such as getting inspiration from nature through a
concept of circular design innovation called biomimicry. Additional savings and waste reduction may be
possible though redesigning not only the product but the process by which it is made. Additive
manufacturing such as 3D printing and knitting could create savings through more efficient use of fibres
in the production of apparel.
Until recently, proof-of-concept was a key barrier to circular fashion. But leaders such as CROP have
successfully created a 100% organic cotton recyclable collection using 3D knitting to minimize
manufacturing waste. (See Appendix 4 for a curated list of industry leaders in this and other areas.)
Rethinking design will enable businesses to extract value from the resale or repair of functional and
durable apparel. Once repair is no longer possible, businesses can extract value from the collection and
recycling of their apparel. A circular business model increases the security of supply and improves price
stability.
Taking Action
Design and Manufacturing (and Remanufacturing)
Timeframe
Actions (Potential Actors)
Short Term
Set a vision and strategy for circular business practices. (Industry)
Design for durability, not obsolescence. (Industry)
Medium
Term
Identify and use materials suitable for closed-loop recycling.