Markham’s Unique Recycling Program Diverts Textile Waste from Landfill

Markham residents have no excuse to live with messy closets anymore. A novel recycling program launched by the municipality last fall to give residents a place to dump unwanted textiles such as mismatched socks, old underwear and worn out linens, has diverted more than 1.4 million kilograms of clothing waste from landfills in less than a year.

The success of the unique program has prompted the city to be the first in the country last month to completely ban residents from putting any textiles at the curb. “We collect garbage through clear bags, and that allows us to see if proper sorting is taking place,” said deputy mayor Jack Heath, who chairs the Waste Diversion Sub-Committee. “If someone throws one sock out, it’s OK, but if they throw out an entire bag, that won’t be picked up,” he said.

Instead, residents can drop off unwanted items at 75 custom bins located at firehalls, community centres and even condominiums across the city. The state-of the art bins detect when the bin is full, calculate the amount of donations collected and even include a solar-powered security camera to help prevent illegal dumping and vandalism.

Markham has long been seen as a leader in recycling with an 81 per cent diversion rate, in part due to the switch from dark garbage bags for waste to clear ones more than a decade ago. In comparison, the city of Toronto is working towards a 70 per cent diversion rate.

But the city believed it could do better. Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti said the municipality’s waste management department noticed that curbside garbage was full of textiles and that each household was throwing out 15 kilograms worth. Across York Region, textiles are believed to account for 5 to 7 per cent of waste.

The city partnered with the Salvation Army Thrift Store, Diabetes Canada and Value Village, who collect the donations at no cost. The materials are then sorted for reuse, re-wear or recycling.

“This gives people an opportunity to do something good for the environment and good for an organization that can put it to good use,” said Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti, adding that 95 per cent of textiles in landfills could have been reused.

Since October, the city has collected 1.4 million kilograms of textiles. Almost anything can be donated, including shoes, curtains, stuffed animals and jewellery. Items that cannot be reused or sold are turned into new products, such as rags, paper, insulation or shredded down for stuffing.

Not only have the green initiatives been good for the environment, they have been good for the city’s budget too. Since the city implemented its clear bag rule and ban on e-waste at the curb, they have seen $761,000 in reduced costs for curbside collection. The textile recycling initiative is expected to save the city $86,000.

To read the full story, visit https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/05/17/markhams-unique-recycling-program-diverts-textile-waste-from-landfill.html.