A point in time: repairs, recycling and other solutions to fast fashion waste problems


Sarah Janzen watches customers in her store as they sort through tables and racks of pants, shirts and sweaters for less than three dollars a pound.

« We started a year ago in a 2,000 square foot warehouse with 40 volunteers, » says Janzen, owner of Blenderz Garment Recyclers. « The demand was so high that we doubled down. »

Its new location, at 5609 Gateway Blvd. in south Edmonton, covers more than 5,000 square feet and has 60 to 70 volunteers each month sorting and processing clothing donations from the public.

Edmonton shoppers are looking for bargains at Blenderz Garment Recyclers in South Edmonton. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

Good items are resold to stay in the local economy, says Janzen. The not so good – like stained t-shirts and plain socks – find new life in the form of woven rugs or other upcycled items sold in the shop.

« The bad clothes go through a disinfection and dismantling process, and we put them in one of our different products, » says Janzen.

She accepts donations as an eco-fee for dealing with things like used linens and towels.

Blenderz Clothing Recyclers

Take a tour with owner Sarah Janzen and learn more about what’s going on at the new Edmonton location.

You can catch more on the Apparel & Textiles edition of Our Edmonton Monday at 11 a.m. on CBC TV and CBC Gem or anytime here.

The shop also sells bulk textiles and clothing that can be upcycled or upcycled by cottage industries.

“We save the resources for people to make things here and take care of our waste here,” Janzen says. « So we’re not creating carbon emissions by exporting and ending up in a landfill in another country. »

Janzen says the system produces just over two kilograms of waste each week out of more than 1,300 kilograms of incoming items.

Customer Elida Knight shows off some of her finds at Blenderz Garment Recyclers in Edmonton. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

A growing aspect of the Blenderz business is the classes held on the last Thursday of each month, offering lessons in skills such as learning to sew and repair or creating homemade holiday gifts.

« It’s amazing to overcome that fear of fixing something yourself. There’s a sense of self-worth and empowerment, » Janzen says of projects as small as sewing on a button.

That kind of pride is something Rachel McQueen has seen firsthand.

Last month, McQueen, an associate professor in the Department of Human Ecology at the University of Alberta, joined her colleagues to launch a Clothing Repair Café.

Trained volunteers help people mend tears, add patches or replace zippers or buttons in an effort to help them learn how to give longer life to the clothes they love.

« It was so much fun. It was a great vibe, » McQueen said. She opened registration for the next free public event, which will be held on November 19 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Rachel McQueen, associate professor in the Department of Human Ecology at the University of Alberta, hosts a monthly Clothing Repair Café on campus. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

The average Canadian throws away approximately 31 kilograms of textiles per year, equivalent to the weight of approximately 70 soccer balls. McQueen says taking care of your clothes makes people less likely to get rid of them.

A recent textile audit conducted in Ontario estimated that approximately two-thirds of textiles found in residential waste could have been reused with a small amount of mending.

Repair, says McQueen, is as important as the other three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle.

Other tips include the ability to resell — or swap clothes — for unwanted items and rent clothes for special occasions like weddings and graduations.

At the University of Alberta’s clothing repair cafes, trained volunteers help people mend tears, add patches or replace zippers and buttons. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)



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