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Damaged clothes seek new life

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While cleaning the wardrobes of the household, we came across ripped pants, stained sweaters and torn socks. Clothes that are considered too worn to be given to friends or to the thrift store. Are these pieces doomed to end up in the black bin? What are the other options? The Press explored the issue.

Limited Solutions

“If the garment is no longer in good condition, if it cannot be repaired, the options are limited, quite honestly, for consumers”, indicates Sophie Langlois Blouin, vice-president, performance of operations, at Recyc- Quebec. “Currently, we mainly have companies that will work on the reuse of textiles, for example thrift stores,” she continues. However, since these receive large quantities of clothing, they will often favor “items in better condition which will be resold more easily”. Many thrift stores only accept donations that are not damaged or stained. In short, pieces that we would give without embarrassment to friends. Some, however, have less restrictive instructions. It is worth finding out.


6%

In 2019-2020, textile products represented 6% of the materials that ended up in landfills or incineration in Quebec. “That may seem low. On the other hand, what concerns us is that this quantity is on the rise”, indicates Sophie Langlois Blouin, of Recyc-Québec. In 2011, textiles accounted for only 3% of materials eliminated.


PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, THE PRESS

Unfortunately, many socks with holes end their lives in textile waste.

Why is it difficult to recycle clothes?

Recycling post-consumer textiles is complex. “We need to sort each item of clothing to know its fiber,” explains Janie-Claude Viens, development officer, ecological transition, at Concertation Montréal.

There are not many outlets for which we will use any type of fiber. For example, when you want stuffing, it takes polyester, because it’s a little more fluffy and that it does not absorb moisture. When you want to make rags, you want cotton.

Janie-Claude Viens, Development Officer, Ecological Transition, at Concertation Montréal

However, the fact that a piece of clothing today can be made of cotton, polyester and spandex at the same time complicates the whole thing. The presence of buttons and zippers is also detrimental to recycling. “There are a lot more manipulations with used clothes than with scraps taken directly from the industry,” notes Janie-Claude Viens. In Quebec, there have already been facilities that defibered textiles, says Sophie Langlois Blouin, of Recyc-Québec. The relocation of certain productions has made this activity less profitable. Today, the lack of defibering expertise and equipment is “a major obstacle to the development of outlets” for unloved fabrics, reads a report prepared for MUTREC, a group that supports the transition from Quebec’s textile industry towards a circular economy.

Darning operation

  • Even heavily worn clothes can often be repaired, believes Christine Deniger, owner of Le bac rose.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Even heavily worn clothes can often be repaired, believes Christine Deniger, owner of Le bac rose.

  • For the heart-shaped repair on these jeans, Christine Deniger used fairly thick embroidery thread to recreate a fabric where there was a hole.  To achieve this, she installed an embroidery hoop to stretch the garment to be darned.  “It can also be a bowl with a rubber band,” she says.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    For the heart-shaped repair on these jeans, Christine Deniger used fairly thick embroidery thread to recreate a fabric where there was a hole. To achieve this, she installed an embroidery hoop to stretch the garment to be darned. “It can also be a bowl with a rubber band,” she says.

  • There's a way to have fun doing repairs.  Here, for example, she drew circles with chalk to then do different embroidery stitches and embellish the jeans.  “It doesn't have to be perfect.  That's what I love about creative embroidery.  » Less skillful in sewing?  There is always the option of turning old clothes into rags.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    There’s a way to have fun doing repairs. Here, for example, she drew circles with chalk to then do different embroidery stitches and embellish the jeans. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s what I love about creative embroidery. » Less skillful in sewing? There is always the option of turning old clothes into rags.

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Upcycle rather than recycle

To prevent unloved clothes from ending up in landfills, some companies rely on upcycling rather than recycling. “Basically, it’s taking something that we treat as waste and transforming it into something with added value,” explains Janie-Claude Viens. Designers who have embarked on this path will recover end of rolls from large companies or use used clothes and unsold pieces in thrift stores. “It’s not easy to meet this type of challenge in the era of online sales, because each model is unique. It’s a really interesting artisanal solution, but which, unfortunately, will not solve the problem on a large scale, ”explains the one who has been interested in the impacts of the fashion industry for years. Among the Quebec companies that upcycle, let’s name Collateral, Les belles bobettes and Kinsu. Others instead recycle post-industrial textile waste.

From leggings to scrunchies

  • Christine Deniger also practices upcycling.  The one who gives sewing workshops to children and adults in the Beloeil region uses damaged clothes for her projects.  Here's step-by-step how to make a hair tie from old leggings.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Christine Deniger also practices upcycling. The one who gives sewing workshops to children and adults in the Beloeil region uses damaged clothes for her projects. Here’s step-by-step how to make a hair tie from old leggings.

  • Cut the legging leg at the seams for a larger piece of fabric.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Cut the legging leg at the seams for a larger piece of fabric.

  • Iron the piece.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Iron the piece.

  • Cut a strip 60 cm long by 10 cm wide with sewing scissors or a rotary cutter.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Cut a strip 60 cm long by 10 cm wide with sewing scissors or a rotary cutter.

  • Create a tube with your fabric.  To do this, fold the fabric lengthwise, with the unpatterned side on top.  Machine sew starting about 4 cm from the end.  Also leave 4 cm at the bottom of the tube.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Create a tube with your fabric. To do this, fold the fabric lengthwise, with the unpatterned side on top. Machine sew starting about 4 cm from the end. Also leave 4 cm at the bottom of the tube.

  • Turn the fabric over.  Here is the pipe!  Create a circle with the latter by joining the two ends and sewing them together.  Leave an opening to slip the elastic through.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Turn the fabric over. Here is the pipe! Create a circle with the latter by joining the two ends and sewing them together. Leave an opening to slip the elastic through.

  • Cut an elastic 20 cm in length.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Cut an elastic 20 cm in length.

  • Using a diaper pin, attach one end of the elastic to the end of the tube.  Slip the other end through the tube.  Once the two ends are joined, sew them together.  Close the opening of the scrunchie with yarn.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Using a diaper pin, attach one end of the elastic to the end of the tube. Slip the other end through the tube. Once the two ends are joined, sew them together. Close the opening of the scrunchie with yarn.

  • Many projects can be done without a sewing machine.  With her company Le bac rose, Chistine Deniger offers kits to create stuffed animals from used textiles.  A fun family activity.

    PHOTO CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, SPECIAL COLLABORATION

    Many projects can be done without a sewing machine. With her company Le bac rose, Chistine Deniger offers kits to create stuffed animals from used textiles. A fun family activity.

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PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, THE PRESS

In 2019-2020, textile products represented 6% of materials that end up in landfills or incineration in Quebec.

Four tips to reduce your textile waste

How to limit the amount of textile waste that we produce individually? Here are some gestures suggested by the experts to whom The Press talked.

  1. Reduce at source. “Before buying a piece, it’s worth asking yourself the question: do I really need it? says Sophie Langlois Blouin, of Recyc-Québec.
  2. Focus on quality. “Sometimes, it is better to pay a little more to buy a product that is of better quality and that we will be able to keep longer,” says the vice-president of Recyc-Québec.
  3. Plan for wear. “From one pair of pants to another, the wear often happens in the same place,” notes Janie-Claude Viens. There is way upstream […] to see a seamstress to reinforce these places. The holes will then appear much less quickly. »
  4. Shop at thrift stores. By buying used clothes, you limit your ecological footprint. Be careful, however, not to fall into the trap of overconsumption, warns Janie-Claude Viens. “It costs less, so people tend to buy more. But a garment sleeping in a wardrobe is extremely polluting for the environment, because it’s a lot of unused resources. »



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