Little City, Big Change – Colchester’s Textile Recycling Program

What is the significance of textile recycling?

On May 1st, 2016 Colchester Nova Scotia started a great new program. This program is aimed at limiting waste to landfills; Colchester now has curb-side pick up for textile waste. Why is this important? In Canada, we have a waste problem. We waste even more per-capita than our neighbours to the south. A whopping majority of our textiles end up in landfills every day, month and year. Only about 15% of our textile waste is recycled or reused. This creates massive amounts of textile in our landfill that could be put to better use, rather than making a mess for the next generations to deal with. Taking control of the problem of waste now can save the spaces and places we love. Curb-side textile pick up is a great opportunity, not just for Colchester, but municipalities across Canada. It saves space in landfills and can even generate funds for the municipality. 

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Clothing waste piles up in a landfill. Only 15% of clothing in North America is reused or recycled.

How does it work?

The program is very simple; in this municipality you have your regular waste, plastics go in one bag, paper in another, and of course the green bin for compost. Let’s break it down a bit more, that is where this program gets interesting. 

Blue Bag # 1:

This is your bag for paper products. Things such as newspapers, writing paper, books, egg cartons and cardboard go into this bag. The new exciting aspect of this bag is that textile waste can go in here. That old t-shirt you love and will never wear again due to holes and grease stains, toss it in! The baby blanket that is splattered with stains, toss it in too! Shoes? No problem! All of those beanie-boos and other stuffies your growing children no long use? In it goes!  All of it is welcome and accepted in this bag. There are a few exceptions: no wet, smelly or oily items. 

Blue Bag # 2: 

This bag is for your recyclable containers. This bag can take items such as, pop bottles, tin cans, aluminum single use bake items, containers made from glass, plastic bags and pretty much anything plastic that that held a liquid. A new addition to this bag is Styrofoam. One of the first municipalities to collect and recycle such products.

Garbage Bags:

Garbage works similar to other municipality. Your non-recyclable items go here. Things such as chocolate bar wrappers, k-cups, diapers, and other non-recyclable food packaging goes here. You are allowed to put out one dark bag of garbage for privacy and up to five clear bags of garbage per collection.

Green Bin:

I hope by now everyone is familiar with the green bin. Your compost items go here. Food waste, pet waste, paper towels, toilet paper, and even wood shavings can be put in your green bin and composted. The municipality collects the waste and gives out up to 100 kg of compost per family.

With programs like these already in existence, why aren’t more municipalities doing this? The program is fairly easy to adapt to other cities across Canada. It saves money, generates money, keeps the places we love livable and helps keep usable items out of landfills. Southern Ontario should work to bring programs like this to the majority of Canadians who live in that area. With space at a premium, and prime farmland disappearing, keeping as much waste as possible should be a main focus.

Here is a video I found on the Colchester website that explains how to dispose of recyclables and what happens to them:

Another interesting thing I found on the website was a game that allows you to sort out discarded items:

For more information on textiles and textile waste you can check out these links:

The Future of Sustainable Textiles

Sustainable Fibres: What is Hemp?

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