The Green Bin

By Willa Wick in Community

Autumn is here, the kids have gone back to school, and it’s time for that horrid task – fall housecleaning.
Forget the windows, and the gardening clean-up, let’s concentrate on the closets. If you haven’t worn it for a year (or even seen it for two years), then it’s time to throw it out and do some real purging.
But don’t waste that material. There’s second hand stores, church rummage sales, Diabetes pick-ups, friends with kids who would love your cast-offs… and now there’s something relatively new.
The Green Bin. It’s gone virtually unnoticed but it’s out there, and several are located all over Ontario. The number is in direct relation to population density so a city would obviously have more bins than a small rural town. One of the bins is situated in the parking lot of the Harry Stone’s Restaurant in Harriston.
The Green Bin – what is it for?
We’re all familiar with recycling (newspapers, cardboard, bottles, cans, some plastics, aluminum etc.). Now think textiles (clothing). What happens to fabric after discard? Textiles in landfills are highly toxic and pollute both air and groundwater. Some are prone to mould that is flammable and could self ignite.
The general public knows very little about the dangers of textiles in landfills, and even less about the benefits textile recycling offers to local communities. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is public awareness of the positive community benefits of textile recycling as a charity fundraiser.
Once the clothing is collected it is taken to a grading facility where it is sorted by type and quality. The good donations that can be used locally are distributed within the area during the winter allocation. The lighter clothing is sent to developing nations that currently lack a domestic clothing supply. Anything too damaged to be reused is recycled into rags or stuffing. It is sanitized, shredded down to the fibre, and then recycled into things like mattress, upholstery, and pillow stuffing as well as industrial cleaning rags. It takes less energy and fewer chemicals to recycle a piece of fabric into new material than it does to make fabric from scratch. Thanks to innovative technologies even that is expanding and these broken down fibres are being investigated for use in the fashion industry.
Basically any type of textile can be donated regardless of condition i.e. clothing, purses, belts, linens, shoes, drapery and reading glasses. They will even take a single sock full of holes that’s been sitting in a drawer (as long as it’s clean, dry, and bagged). Not accepted are appliances, furniture, paint, household items, garbage or hazardous wastes.
The head office of the Canadian Community Support Foundation (CCSF) is in Ottawa but the group works throughout southern Ontario and has logistic facilities set up throughout the province. The CCSF works with a recycler (Textile Waste Diversion Inc.) that hires drivers and staff locally in each region where they have a presence. Industry experts have estimated that for every 1000 tons of diverted waste collected, seven full time and fifteen indirect jobs are created. The 2013 estimate is 30 million pounds of used textiles diverted from landfill sites.
This whole initiative was inspired by a group of friends who worked directly and indirectly with the textile recycling industry. The CCSF’s Board of Directors is composed of interested moms, environmentalists, multi-media professionals, non-profit veterans, and textile recyclers. They are scattered throughout the province but thanks to modern technology they are able to easily collaborate without incurring costs. The Green Bin and service is free and fully insured and generously hosted by unrelated companies and property managers throughout Ontario.
This is not just a “throw your clothes in the bin, someone picks them up, and that’s the end of it” scenario. This initiative is a community building block towards a green future, which supports area charities.
The run-of-the-mill consumer expects stores and businesses to be quite free in supporting charitable organizations, but the bottom line is, some businesses are not able to live up to the generosity the public expects.
The CCSF believes that all businesses, including for-profit organizations, have a duty to support the community that supports them. The CCSF also believes that textile recycling is the green-tech answer to the dilemma of charity vs. profit and a solution to this serious issue. A green bin can be placed in any outdoor space adjacent to a business or residential property as long as it does not interfere with peoples’ ability to access to the building.
It’s possible the green bin could save some tipping fees. Businesses which have multiple garbage bins on their property are often plagued with people who, in the dark of night, dump furniture or houseware items thus increasing fees. Any debris left close to a green bin is quickly removed by a driver who collects the textiles on a daily basis. It’s CCSF’s way of saying thank you for generously hosting a bin.
The green bin belongs to a registered charity, and when customers research that charity they will realize what wonderful things are being done with the help of the company/store’s participation in the program. Hosting a bin provides a free and environmentally responsible alternative to poisoning the landfill. Once residents learn about donation bins it brings extra foot traffic to the establishment. If your business has e-waste – bag it and toss it in the bin – it can be processed too.
One of the mandates of the CCSF is to feed and clothe Canadians in dire straits, and provide assistance to existing charities within the community. They provide food to local charities that directly feed those in need (Food Banks), and donate hundreds of pounds of winter clothing to struggling families in Ontario and Quebec.
Why would a charitable organization use a textile recycling company for their clothing donations?
By-laws differ in each jurisdiction. There must be licenses, insurance, permits, paperwork, and staffing. It can get overwhelming. Most charity workers are already burning the candle at both ends running events and programs to help the people they’re trying to serve. To expect them to also manage a never ending list of demands for a full blown recycling operation is out of the question. A contracted recycler lifts that heavy burden and handles everything from start to finish leaving the charity to focus on what it’s meant to do.
After all costs associated with outsourcing are determined, charities are still left with a substantial guaranteed budget to use on their activities. This avoids the ups and downs of soliciting extra funding from the general public.
There are many communities which fight the appearance of used clothing donation bins. CCSF believes that if the general public knew the benefits of textile waste recycling, everyone would be begging for a bin. By permitting a bin on your property you are supporting your community as well as your favorite charity.
For more detailed information or an application to apply for community funding refer to www.canadiancommunitysupportfoundation.com Links will lead you to additional recycling tips and facts that will amaze you. They also raise awareness of important issues through the website where things are discussed such as Autism, Bullying and Poverty, Falling through the cracks etc.
More importantly, at www.textilewastediversion.com there is a Kids Corner with “Enviroman” at its helm. There you’ll find pint sized information for the younger set as we teach them to be environmentally friendly. There are also programs where a representative will visit schools to educate the next generation about textile recycling.
CCSF loves to see children involved in community building. To celebrate the contribution kids make they will present a Community Inspiration Award to children under 10 who show exemplary community spirit. The award winner receives a certificate, gift-card, t-shirt, and gets to present $4000 to his/her favorite charity in a special ceremony.
CCSF’s contracted recycler Textile Waste Diversion Inc. is a proud member of the Recycling Council of Ontario, and assists municipalities by lending industry expertise in the development of much needed municipal bylaws that support recycling and waste diversion.
Do your part, put your outdated clothing in the green bin – not the green garbage bag.

A typical old fashioned landfill site

A typical old fashioned landfill site

Elly Emmerton of the Harriston area places a bag of sewing scraps into the Green Bin

Elly Emmerton of the Harriston area places a bag of sewing scraps into the Green Bin