What About Textiles in Ottawa’s Waste Management?

La version en français viendra sous peu.

With the City’s Solid Waste Master Plan (SWMP) going through its final steps of consultation, EcoEquitable, a local charity dedicated to textile waste reduction and women’s empowerment, has a couple of suggestions for the textile waste portion of the plan.

First things first: what is textile waste? Textile waste, according to Fashion Takes Action, is any item of fabric-based material such as clothing, shoes, upholstery, or other. 

Canada as a whole sends over 1 billion pounds of textiles to landfills every year, and with solid waste programs being a municipal responsibility, textile waste reduction on the municipal level is crucial. As a charity actively working towards textile waste reduction in the city, EcoEquitable receives donations of fabric almost daily, and we also receive phone calls aplenty from people in the Ottawa-Gatineau region who have textiles that are not good enough for reuse, but that they do not want to throw away. As a result, we see the need for better, and more sustainable, collection processes for both reusable and non-usable textiles.


Image: textiles that EcoEquitable receives and thus diverts from landfill.


We think the SWMP needs a dedicated section on textile waste reduction, especially since they are mentioned in the plan. Here are a few things we'd like to see: 

Pilot a curbside textiles pickup program across the city, or in one specific area of the city.

This is something that has been done in other regions, and that the City has flagged as a potential solution in their Descriptions Document of the SWMP. While we are excited to see this listed as an option, we want to highlight the importance of prioritizing these studies into what will work best for changing collection of textiles (and other items). 

One example is the municipality of Barrie, which has a set day for textile waste collection and a method of collecting in clear bags which ensures only textiles are included. Barrie partners with local recycling centres such as Cornerstone to Recovery as a way of keeping the collected textiles in circulation. The City of Ottawa should direct resources to finding local, or at least domestic, recycling centres to partner with so that our textile waste can be properly reproduced. 

Another option which the City is considering is creating city-run drop bins across the city for textile waste, and we want to suggest that they could also try holding textile waste collection days at community centres for a full quarter. Implementing even one of these pilot programs would allow for Ottawa officials to gauge the quality of textiles being collected and which methods of circularity would be most effective.


Increase awareness and education campaigns to teach the public about textile waste reduction - especially in schools and workplaces.

The only way that new programs are going to be successful is if the people throwing out textiles are aware of the new rules. We therefore recommend that the city create educational resources to promote the new systems and ensure that everyone is aware of both what should be included in these collections, and when and where they will be. This type of communication has also been flagged as a priority by the National Association for Charity Textile Recycling

Increase funding for repair services and community events (such as Repair Cafés!) 

This is already included in the current draft. Our only recommendation on this is to increase funding and support for this program!

Adequate infrastructure and space

Many charities and social enterprises in Ottawa that focus on waste reduction, including EcoEquitable, are confronted with the challenge of inadequate space to meet the growing demand and quantity of donations. We recommend that the City invest in and support local organizations and businesses already doing waste reduction work by providing and supporting affordable and adequate space in the city to grow our collective impact. This could be in the form of a social enterprise zero waste community hub, or prioritizing more funding for local grants to be used towards space rental. 

These are a few of our ideas. What are yours? Send your ideas by submitting the City’s engagement survey on the SWMP before March 7th! You can also engage with us at EcoEquitable directly through our social media channels @ecoequitable or by emailing us at [email protected].

Anne Biason-Hart (she/her) is the Communications and Impact Coordinator with EcoEquitable, a local registered charity working towards textile waste reduction and women's empowerment through the art of sewing.


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