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RDN looks at providing $103,000 for clothing recycling on Gabriola Island

Recycling organization on Gabriola hopes to divert 23,600 kilograms of textile waste from landfill
Gabriola Island Recycling Organization seeks $103,000 in grant money from the Regional District of Nanaimo for a textile recovery program. (Black Press files)

Gabriola Island Recycling Organization hopes to put used clothing in the spin cycle and contribute to a circular economy if granted $100,000-plus from the Regional District of Nanaimo.

With the region looking to provide $300,000 in grants for zero waste recycling initiatives, RDN’s solid waste management select committee is recommending the Gabriola non-profit receive $103,000 to start a textile recovery and clothing recycling program. In a plan submitted to the RDN, the organization estimates the 10-year, three-phased project could see a yearly decrease of about 23,600 kilograms of cloth waste at the landfill. It also projects about $118,000 in revenue after the first year.

Michelle MacEwen, GIRO general manager, told the News Bulletin that the non-profit sees 25 per cent of restore sales from used clothing. It sells about 50 per cent of clothing received and about 454 kilograms a week in donations can’t be used as it is “stained, dirty, ripped, torn, damaged, over-used, worn out,” she said.

Unusable clothing had been collected by Diabetes Canada, but that was halted due to COVID-19, which “sparked” the idea, MacEwen said. The first phase, scheduled for January until June, would see purchase of a washer and dryer, sewing machine, staff hires and business analysis with expenses estimated at $31,000.

“The initial Phase 1 would be short-term or quick fixes for items that are dirty, wrinkled, stained. Just having a washer and dryer on premises could deal with a percentage of that waste,” said MacEwen. “Then for the clothing that’s in good condition, but just won’t sell because … it’s not fashionable or whatever, but it’s still material in good condition, that’s where we decided that we would need more of a design team to come up with how to re-purpose that clothing; upcycle it rather than downcycle.”

The organization would look to purchase a shredder during the second phase, scheduled for June to December, to break down fibre into smaller pieces, which could be used for items such as cushions or footstools, according to MacEwen. Expenses are estimated at $162,500.

The primary goal of a third phase, planned for January 2022 to December 2024, “would be to create business spaces that could receive textile discard waste from all thrift and consignment stores in the district of Nanaimo,” in addition to landfills in southern and northern parts of the region, according to an RDN staff report.

MacEwen said money is also being sought from Western Economic Diversification Canada.

The $300,000 was originally slated for Nanaimo Recycling Exchange, but with the non-profit shuttering its Kenworth Road site, the RDN decided to offer the money for “innovative programs that increase diversion through the development of a circular economy,” according to the report. Nanaimo Recycling Exchange could still see some money, as the committee is recommending approval of about $49,000 for it to conduct waste audits and educational initiatives.

Amounts of $95,000 for Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank, for a new warehouse facility, and about $53,000 for Habitat for Humanity, to offset a lease of a new space for one year and hire staff for an upcycle repair program, are also being recommended.

The regional district is aiming to divert 90 per cent of waste from its landfill and Ben Geselbracht, RDN director and committee chairman, says the proposed projects will assist with that.

“This is incentive and program support money for local innovation around a circular economy and that’s sort of the big umbrella,” Geselbracht told the News Bulletin.

The recommendations are expected to go before RDN directors at their Jan. 26 board meeting.

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

After interning at Vancouver Metro free daily newspaper, I joined Black Press in 2010.
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