Pilot project gives Vancouverites new way to dispose of used clothing

Three-month pilot will see clothing and textiles accepted at 13 Return-It depots

With the number of clothing donation bins on Vancouver streets dwindling, a new pilot project is offering residents an alternative for getting rid of old clothes.

Encorp Pacific Friday launched a pilot project that will see the company accept textiles, including clothing, shoes and household textiles like sheets and blankets, towels and curtains. Many residents already drop off bottles, cans, electronics and other recyclables at the company’s Return-It depots.

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“Our new textiles program is about convenience,” Allen Langdon, Encorp Pacific president and CEO, said Friday morning. “We want to give British Columbians more options for giving their textiles a second life, with the ultimate goal of keeping those items out of landfills to support a circular economy.”

Langdon said the company has been considering the project for several months and it is not directly linked to recent decisions in Vancouver and other municipalities to remove, or ban, clothing donation bins. He said the aim of the program is to divert clothing and other textiles from landfills.

“Every year, the average adult throws out about 81 pounds of clothing and other textiles,” he said, adding that in Metro Vancouver alone 40,000 tonnes of textiles go to the landfill annually.

Textiles make up about five per cent of the region’s municipal solid waste.

The pilot project will run at 13 Return-It depots across the Lower Mainland from March until May. After that, Langdon said, the company will assess how the system worked and decide if it will continue with the program and if it will be expanded to more of its depots.

Two locations in Vancouver, Yaletown Express Return-It (1387 Richards St.) and Go Green Return-It (7 East Seventh Ave.) are included in the pilot project, along with locations in Coquitlam, Burnaby, North Vancouver, White Rock, Surrey, Langley, Richmond and Ladner.

Encorp is partnering with Ottawa-based Bank and Vogue, one of the largest traders of used clothing in North America. Anything collected during the pilot project will be distributed to organizations and companies within Western Canada that reuse used clothing. Langdon said that anything that is not suitable for sale will be recycled.

In January, city council passed a motion to have clothing donation bins removed from Vancouver streets until “they can be replaced, retrofitted or made safe, with consideration given to bin designs that also avoid strewing of refuse.”

Before that, the city had removed about 90 per cent of more than 100 bins previously located on city property following the death in July of a 39-year-old woman who became trapped in a bin outside West Point Grey community centre. A city spokesperson said Friday that there are still 22 bins on private property that the City of Vancouver has requested be moved. The number includes book donation bins.

Just this week, Metro Vancouver launched a new campaign, as part of its ongoing Zero Waste initiative, aimed at educating residents about clothing waste and providing tips about making more informed, and sustainable, decisions when purchasing, caring for and disposing of clothing.

@JessicaEKerr

jkerr@vancourier.com

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