Kelly Drennan, Fashion Takes Action, Founding Executive Director
As a non profit organization whose mandate is to advance sustainability and circularity in the fashion system, our role is to provide research and educational opportunities, rooted in collaboration, via a collective impact approach. With respect to circularity, this means that we have been convening a multi-stakeholder group for the past 5 years to address textile waste diversion, reuse, and recycling. We have formed working groups to address policy and regulations, public awareness/education, data and research. We have conducted a textile recycling feasibility study and published our report in 2021 and we are wrapping up a mechanical textile recycling pilot whereby we created a consumer facing end product from 90% recycled polyester (50% rPET and 40% recycled polyester textiles). The end product is a laundry hamper and will be sold in select retailers across Canada this coming winter. As part of our pilot, we convened a stakeholder learning group and held several workshops to help members (municipalities, retailers and brands, charities, collectors) gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities. And finally, we will be publishing a Guidance Document on the entire process so that it can be widely shared for those interested in replicating or scaling our pilot.
What we have learned through our process is that the challenges are mainly related to cost and infrastructure. There is an appetite and we have identified the key stakeholders. But now it is a matter of who is able to invest in the equipment and infrastructure required, and also because Canada is a massive country, setting up hubs in 2-3 different regions. Other challenges that arose include sortation – manually sorting the textiles based on fiber composition is time consuming and therefore costly. If we are to keep the supply chain for recycled textiles in Canada, then we also need to be investing in technology to make this step more efficient. We also need to engage more yarn spinners in Canada to test out whether it is possible to spin a yarn from recycled polyester textiles (as opposed to rPET).
As an organization, we do not have a specific circularity goal, however as the convenor of our circular textiles work stream, we need funding!! This would allow us to continue doing research with respect to an EPR strategy for Canada and circular job growth, as well as to determine the volume and composition of textile waste generated from the Institutional, Commercial & Industrial sector (IC&I). It would also allow us to continue to build out our network to form a super cluster for textiles, and conduct further pilots.