Proposed textile recycling program returns to Kingston City Council

On Tuesday, Sep. 19, 2023, Kingston City Council will debate a proposed textile recycling project for the City. Photo by Josie Vallier.

On Tuesday, Sep. 19, 2023, Kingston City Councillors will debate a proposed textile recycling project for the City. The proposal was first presented to councillors back on Tuesday, Jul. 11, 2023; however, at that meeting, representatives voted to defer a decision to September, in order to allow staff more time to consult with local charities that may be impacted by the program.

According to a report circulating ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, since the initial proposal to City Council in July, members of City staff have consulted with local charities, including the Salvation Army, Mission Thrift Store, and The Goodway, and have heard “concerns that a citywide recycling program could have an impact on charity funding.”

During their consultations, City staff received feedback from five organizations where used textiles are collected and/or sold. The report states that all of those organizations do, at times, receive textile materials which are “too damaged for resale.” Oftentimes, these items are sold “as rags.” Two of the charities already use “donation bins” specifically to collect textile waste.

Staff note that three of the organizations indicated that they would be “interested” in hosting a textile waste donation bin at their site, but questions remain regarding how such bins would be maintained. The report goes on to note, “The majority of organizations indicated that they would consider placing additional bins if allowed but were concerned about their ability to maintain and dispose of items left at the bin.” 

Following public consultations, staff are recommending the City issue a request for proposal (RFP) to establish a textile recycling program in the first quarter of 2024. Proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria: 

  • The contributions that the program makes to charitable organizations within Kingston;
  • The services which can be offered by the company; and
  • The types of textiles the organization will accept and can reuse and/or recycle.

The recommendation of an RFP is a departure from the initial staff report presented back in July, which recommended at the time that the City partner with RenewalSquared Inc., a Trenton-based for-profit company, to facilitate 20 textile donation bins at City-owned buildings as part of a pilot project. The pilot would have run for nine months in an effort to divert materials such as linens and towels from ending up in area landfills. 

The change to recommend an RFP is the result of discussions with a “large charity,” which, according to the most recent staff report, contacted the City after the July 11 meeting regarding the potential implementation of a textile recycling program in Kingston. In the report, City staff note that the expression of interest from the unnamed non-profit organization is what prompted them to recommend issuing an RFP for the permanent service, instead of moving forward with the initial concept for a pilot project. 

Regarding the environmental impact of textile recycling, the report states, “Research has shown that in North America, 85% of all used clothing, bed sheets, towels, and other textiles goes to landfills.” Locally, textiles represent 4.5 per cent of the waste that ends up in local landfills each year. Currently, the Kingston Area Recycling Centre (KARC) is the only location listed on the City of Kingston’s website where textiles can be dropped off to be recycled. “The bins located at KARC are provided by two charity organizations,” the report adds. 

The staff report will be presented to Council for approval during its meeting on Tuesday, Sep. 19, 2023. The meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers of Kingston City Hall. Meetings are open to the public and can be streamed live (or viewed after) on the Kingston City Council YouTube page.

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