Where left shoes and mismatched curtains find a new life

This article was originally published in the Chronicle Herald's weekly community papers and has been republished here with their permission.

After skimming Marie Kondo’s book about the life-changing magic of tidying up I tackled the area of our basement known as the storage room/my office. I discovered that a huge chunk of the clutter was made up of items like stained bibs, worn and torn baby clothes, a left shoe that lost its right match long ago, and Leo - a stuffed lion who is now balding, tailless, and creepily watches me while I work.

I donate or sell as much as I can but I always end up with items leftover that have no clear new home, especially with the introduction of Halifax’s new garbage rules. I went in search of an alternative way to dispose of clothes that can’t be reused and came across AFTeR.

AFTeR (Association for Textile Recycling) started in 2013 and is made up of six local organizations: Canadian Diabetes Association Clothesline, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Canadian Red Cross, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Salvation Army Thrift Stores, and Value Village. These organizations were already collecting and reusing clothing to fund social causes and they decided to join forces to spread the word about what they can do with those textiles that can’t be reused.

Joanna Dunn is the Manager of the Nova Scotia and PEI Clothesline Programs and the President of AFTeR. She says to give your tired, your worn, and your survivors of the laundry’s sock abduction program to AFTeR.

“The textiles we accept include clothing of any size, season, or gender as well as footwear, linens, bedding, purses, bags, and accessories such as belts, ties and scarves,” Dunn says, adding that they can’t accept mattresses or items with chemical stains, mold, or mildew.

Almost all textiles and footwear are accepted and - the best part for a laundry weary parent? - no cleaning or sorting required. Just toss them all into one of their clothing donation bins across the city and they’ll do the work for us.

Once the textiles go into the bin the items able to be reused here are diverted into the individual organization’s clothing program. The items that cannot be used here are sent overseas to developing countries to be used as material or affordable clothing. If they can’t be sold overseas they are turned into rags or shredded into fibres to start a new life as car insulation, paper, yarn, and more.

“As a group, we currently divert over 7,000 tonnes of textiles and footwear each year from landfill. There are 30,000 more tonnes of textiles and footwear in the landfill that could be diverted; 11 percent of items in landfill are textiles and footwear,” Dunn says. “These are items we can recycle.”

As we head into this colder weather I’ll be doing another purge of my children’s summer clothes and this time the items will be headed straight for the donation bins - including Leo the Lion and his shifty smile. Perhaps we’ll meet again in your new life as a greeting card, old friend.

For a complete list of what can be recycled and bin donation locations visit www.afterwear.ca