Modo Carsharing – For full story please visit modo.coop Modo member Mahbod Rouhany, Managing Director at Revivify shares the story behind the start-up. Revivify aims to lay the foundation for a sustainable and practical future for our planet. Alongside economic sustainability, Revivify aims to achieve a net positive social/environmental impact in all of its projects and operations by minimizing environmental footprints, creating low-barrier employment opportunities, and aiding in the training and integration of newcomers, whether refugee or immigrant, through its diverse project portfolio. Textiles: A tale of loom and doom!
In September 2004 I landed in Vancouver as an immigrant and immediately started learning about the Canadian culture. My background in sustainability made me keen to know about the relation between people and the environment in my new home,taking note of sorting and recycling among other things. I was surprised to see large metal clothing donation bins placed in a variety of locations from supermarket parking lots to fire hall entrances. I learned that dropping clothing in these bins was part of the recycling culture and followed suit, often using Modo cars to drop off a bag of clothes after running other errands.
Back then, I could not have imagined that for most of the next decade, I would be focusing much of my attention on the environmental impact of clothing and fabrics, as my profession in Canada has been mainly focused on greenhouse gas management. Learning a few simple facts about textile waste in the region changed everything for me. First allow me to give some context on the environmental impact of textiles.
The Environmental Footprint of Textiles
Textile manufacturing is one of the most polluting industries due to the vast amounts of energy and water used. More than 60 percent of fabric fibres are now synthetic, made from fossil fuels. These textiles can take more than 200 years to decompose in landfills. Adding insult to injury is the fact that laundering synthetic textiles is the main source of microplastics in the earth’s water ways.
Textile waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams fueled by the unholy union of fast fashion and a vast assortment of mass-produced inexpensive garments, shoes, towels, accessories, and more. These items are cheaply bought, briefly used, and easily discarded. Effective recycling requires separation of the materials and fibres. This is a slow and labour intensive process after which, the dyes still have to be removed in order for the cloth fibres to be reused. Think of jeans that these days are commonly made from cotton blended with elastane or lycra and will also include metal or plastic buttons and zippers, and chemical dyes. A t-shirt made from 100% cotton still has threads and labels made from synthetic materials. Due to the complex combinations of fibres and accessories that make up most of modern fabrics, end-of-life textiles are not commonly recycled; the majority end up in the landfill.
Since textile production leads to high pollution and they are challenging to recycle, there are significant environmental benefits in taking measures to prevent them from being thrown away. A T-shirt that gets reused can result in one less item bought and manufactured. A European study from 2015 showed that for every single unit of textile production avoided, more than 21 units of CO
2 equivalent (CO 2 e) emissions are prevented from being released into the atmosphere. This is higher than any other material, with aluminum coming in at a distant second with 13 units of avoided CO 2e. Textiles also carry a very large water and energy footprint; production of a tonne of clothes can use up 10 times more energy than that of steel or glass. Textile Waste in Metro Vancouver
Now back to our region and the simple facts I learned that motivated me to start working on the issue of textile waste; Every year, 30,000 tonnes of textiles end up in Metro Vancouver landfills.
The surprising fact is that multifamily buildings collectively throw out roughly 13 million lbs/year of clothing and textiles. That’s a staggering 36,000 lbs on average discarded in our landfill every day! This is only household textiles of which, only 2% is actual waste and the rest can be either reused, recycled into new fabric and garments, or repurposed into wiping rags and shoddy. I believe the cause waslackof space in condo units and donation bins being few and far apart in most areas with high density.
This drove me to action. In 2015, I started a socially and environmentally centered start-up company, Revivify to reduce and hopefully eliminate the flow of textiles into the landfill from multifamily buildings.
Revivify today, in partnership with the
Big Brother’s of Greater Vancouver, is providing a free-of-charge indoor textile recycling bin and service for multifamily buildings all across Metro Vancouver. Residents of condo or apartment buildings with a Revivify bin are able to conveniently recycle their clothing, linen, and shoes just like they do other recyclables such as mixed paper and containers. Strata and rental management companies, developers, and strata council members can now join the growing list of buildings that are no longer throwing usable textiles into the landfill. The majority of proceeds from the services support Big Brothers’ programs for local kids.