The researchers hope their new research will be used to change the amount of clothing that ends up in landfills.
The research was led by Sabine Weber, professor of fashion at Seneca University, in collaboration with the University of Waterloo.
Canadians throw away about 1 billion pounds of textiles annually, making up just over 4% of landfill waste.
“If the industry continues on the same path as it is today, I think we could emit a quarter of our greenhouse gas emissions,” explained Sabine Weber.
“We use a lot of energy to produce textiles, so it makes sense not to waste them,” said Olaf Weber, research chair for sustainable finance at the University of Waterloo.
Researchers used a ranking system to rate the quality of the garments. For example, ripped or soiled jeans can be repaired and resold. Cotton shirts can be reused as recycled fibers for fashion and home insulation.
“The question, of course, is where can we recycle them and how can we recycle them,” said Sabine Weber. “We have all the programs, but not textiles.”
“So some things don’t belong in the waste because they are of very high quality and can be reused. Others can be recycled,” said Olaf Weber.
Consignment stores like Kitchener’s Carousel Clothing are proof that sustainability is here to stay. The store buys used clothes and resells them to customers. Unsold clothes are donated to charity for reuse.
Carousel Clothing owner Paula Wilkie said: “The last thing I want to see is things thrown away.”
Despite the growth of “fast fashion,” Wilkie sees a shift in shopper mindset.
“We get a lot of calls from younger generations looking to recycle and reuse their clothes,” Wilkie said.
Researchers hope to build an infrastructure for recycling clothing in Canada, change how provinces handle waste, and keep clothing out of landfills.