Fast Fashion, Excessive Damage: Managing the Ecological Consequences of Textile Waste in Newfoundland and Labrador

Lay Summary 

"If earth is not worthy of our care, if we cannot honour all that is elemental, how will the story keep spinning?" - Justine Suskin

The Multi-Material Stewardship Board (MMSB) has identified the presence of textile waste in landfills across Newfoundland and Labrador as a pressing waste management concern, that demands local action. In partnership with MMSB, this project will research the problem of textile waste and will generate informed, sustainable, and low-cost solutions including:
1) Policy briefing notes and strategic option plans:
- This portion will scan the limited existing policy relevant literature on textile waste, which is a relatively new and undocumented concern in most policy circles. The research will generate an abundance of information on the global, local, and comparative context of the issue, and will provide strategic policy options and briefing notes to the appropriate municipal and provincial government officials. Further, these documents will facilitate the incorporation of textile waste in the developed provincial waste management strategy; the current framework was implemented in 2002, and does not account for this recent and increasingly problematic concern.
2) A model and plan for implementing a textile recycling program based on best practices:
- As it currently stands, citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador have few options when discarding unwanted fabrics; charitable clothing donation centres accept only materials that are fit for resale, leaving no option but to place torn or damaged clothing in the trash. The development of a low-cost recycling program that is appropriate to the province’s particularities will be based off of existing programs in other Canadian municipalities, particularly the AFtER Wear Program in Halifax NS, the Textile Recycling Depot in Markham ON, and Trans-Continental Textile Recycling Ltd. in Surrey BC.
3) Public education modules for MMSB, as well as education outreach and social media output:
- Through public education models, which will be informed by the theoretical framework of care, citizens will be mobilized - both morally and practically - to reduce their individual contributions to textile waste. These models will build the capacity of the current, successful public education framework employed by MMSB, and will make a valuable contribution to the RethinkWaste NL initiative. The models will be designed to reach varied demographics in specific, effective manners.

Textile waste is an understudied environmental concern that has serious impacts, and yet there is a lack of public policy with few applicable solutions. Solutions to this problem cannot be found solely in financial investments, but must inspire an informed shift in the way we conceive of waste and waste management that is propelled “fast fashion” and its over-consumption. To address the pressing issue of textile waste, this research employs a theoretical framework of care and mobilizes a moral impetus toward human action in the reduction of textile waste locally. This approach, applying theories of care to waste, is novel, applicable and marks a lasting contribution to local understandings of textile waste, and provides a framework that develops practical solutions to address the complex socio-economic and environmental contexts of textile waste.

Feminist theories of care ethics represent the sole approach that can effectively unite these varied elements of environmental and social detriment wrought by textile waste, and subsequently generate informed, lasting solutions. This framework operates, in part, under Joan Tronto’s definition of care as a “species activity that includes everything we do to maintain, continue, and repair our world so that we can live in it as well as possible.” This project focuses specifically on three dimensions of a political theory of care, including: dynamics of caring about and caring for, environmental care ethics, and the utility of care as policy information. These elements put forth the notion that the solution to this problem of textile waste cannot be found in financial investments, but must inspire an informed shift in the way we conceive of waste and waste management, and environmental protection.

In sum, this research will address a pressing environmental waste management program by applying an original approach that produces practical solutions to the issue of textile waste.

Political Science
Harris Centre - MMSB Waste Management Applied Research Fund
St. John's
Newfoundland and Labrador
Waste Management
Industry Sectors 
Remediation and Other Waste Management Services
Start date 
1 Jun 2017
End date 
1 Jan 2018
Partner Organization 
Multi-Material Stewardship Board (MMSB)