Frequently asked questions and useful facts

Both charitable and for profit organizations in Canada collect used clothes for reuse and resale to fund their missions. On average, up to 95% of used clothing can be repurposed. Roughly 25% are resold into the Canadian marketplace through local thrift stores, and another 30% is sold to overseas. Approximately 25% are repurposed into other products (bags/rags), 15% is broken down into low grade fiber that is used for insulation and other industrial products, and 5% is waste.

All donated clothing should be clean, dry and odourless.

Clothing with stains or that are damaged – holes, rips, broken zippers and missing buttons can generally still be donated. However, it is best to contact the organization to see what they accept if you are unsure.

Yes, it is not necessary to donate clothing in season.

Many people feel too embarrassed to donate their underwear or bras, but if the underwear is clean it can be donated. Believe it or not, there is high demand for bras on the second-hand market, even if they’re a little stretched.

Clothing with paint stains or that are contaminated with chemicals cannot be donated as they are considered to be hazardous. It is best to check with your local municipality on what to do with clothing that is contaminated.

It depends on who you are donating to, however most accept bags, shoes, accessories, bedding, drapes, pillow covers, towels, wash cloths, tablecloths, and sleeping bags.

Textiles put into the garbage often end up in landfill, where they take up valuable space and contribute to climate change. Clothing that is reused or repurposed keeps the items in circulation and extends their life.

While no harm has come to those using clothing donation bins as intended, bin collectors retrofitted existing bins and changed the closing mechanism on new bins in January 2019. These modifications have resulted in a much safer bin if being used for unintended activities like trying to climb into the bin.

If a bin is full, please do not put your bag next to the bin. If the material in the bag gets wet, it can become moldy. Please return at another time to make your donation, or bring it directly to a second-hand retail store.

Clothing and other textiles should NEVER be put in your municipality’s Blue Bin/Box (recycling). They can get tangled in sorting machines, damage equipment and cause workplace injuries at the recycling facility. Putting textiles in the Blue Bin/Box can also increase recycling processing costs.

Currently, the majority of donated clothing and other textiles are reused as there is more value than in recycling. Some textiles are made into rags, insulation or other products, but technology to create new clothing from used clothing is still in the very early stages. It is complicated by the fact that most of our clothing is made of blended fabrics (e.g. cotton and polyester) and it is costly to separate the fibres.

If you have access to large amounts of textiles from a wider network, and you have time to collect this material, you might consider a partnership with a charity or for-profit organization. Fundraiser events are an excellent way to collect clothing and establish partnerships – simply organize for the charity or for-profit organization to collect the items at the end. Clothing drives are another excellent way to collect used textiles and fundraise for charities.

Not necessarily. Graders in Canada have business connections to South and Central America, but also Asian and Eastern European countries. In fact, the product quality and category determine the market.

There is no textile recycling infrastructure in North America. Companies in the textile reuse and recycling industry consist of collectors, processors and distributors of all types of used clothing, textiles and secondary materials.

Collectors are companies that collect used clothing and other household textiles from the public. In addition, recycled textile collectors gather materials from industrial laundries, healthcare institutions, hotels, and other businesses that utilize large amounts of textile products. Another source of textile products that is directed into the recycling stream by “collector” companies is textile waste from clothing manufacturers. Collectors bale and sell these clothing products “as is” to clothing graders or other dealers. Used clothing “graders” sort the items assign a “grade” and re-sell the graded product. The activities of collectors, graders, and used clothing brokers are instrumental in diverting solid waste from landfills.

Processors sort, grade and reprocess used clothing and household textiles during the recycling process. At the facilities where the collected clothing and textiles are sorted, the items are then made into large bales to be re-sold. The newly created bales of used clothing may be re-sold within North America, although most often the products are shipped overseas to developing markets in Asia, Africa, Europe, or Central and South America. Textile processors also collect items from industrial laundries that are deemed to be unfit to be used by the laundry’s clients. These items are sorted and bleached to make them more absorbent before they are cut into wiping cloths.

Some companies re-process used clothing back into their original fiber. These companies create blends of fiber that are sold in bales to companies that re-manufacture the fiber content into new products. These products include: home insulation (made from the denim of reprocessed blue jeans), stuffing for furniture, athletic equipment, pet bedding, automotive soundproofing, and carpet padding among many other new products.

Distributors take the used clothing or textiles that are cut or converted into wiping products and then sold to industrial, manufacturing, retail, and other end-use clients. Broker companies fall within the distributor category as well.  These businesses facilitate the transactions between collector companies, grader companies and buyers. Materials that are brokered within the used clothing industry include institutional mixed used clothing, clothing gathered by collector companies and materials that have been sorted by grader companies. The clients of brokers are often foreign businesses located in Africa, Asia, Europe, or South America. On occasion, brokers also facilitate transactions among companies within the United States, depending on the needs of their client companies.

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