John Watson, environmental manager for the Municipality of Dysart et al, looks out over the edge of the steep hill of garbage at the Haliburton landfill on Industrial Park Road. The full landfill now has to ship all garbage to a Twin Creek Landfill in Watford, Ontario.

Textile recycling program collects tonnes at landfills

By Vivian Collings
Dysart’s textile recycling program is proving a success at diverting waste after two months of placing collection bins at all five Municipality of Dysart et al landfills.
Dysart’s environmental manager John Watson said, “It’s going really well. Residents have really responded well to the program, so it’s a great complement to the existing options that people have with the Haliburton 4Cs Lily Anne Thrift Store and the SIRCH Community Services Thrift Warehouse.”
Between all five sites, Haliburton landfill, Harcourt landfill, Kennisis Lake landfill, West Bay landfill, and West Guilford landfill, 1.2 metric tonnes of textiles were collected in August alone, and close to 98 per cent of those textiles are able to be reused or recycled.

From Sept. 1 to 23, 0.85 metric tonnes of textiles were collected.
“When we start a brand new program like this, there’s the initial start and people are super excited to get on board and try it out, so those big numbers will likely come down a little bit in September, and as we come into our winter hours from October through to April, they will probably be a little bit lower. As we get into the spring in 2023, numbers come back up,” Watson said.
Watson is very pleased by the numbers he’s received from season waste composition studies for Dysart.
“A waste composition study conducted in spring 2022 found 5.9 per cent of the garbage was textiles, while a follow-up study conducted in summer 2022 found only 3.47 per cent of the garbage was textiles. It is hoped that during an upcoming fall 2022 waste composition study, the amount of textiles in the garbage will decrease even further as a result of the textile recycling program,” he said.

Only two of the five landfills in Dysart, Harcourt and West Bay, are operating as “active landfills.” This means that garbage collected at these sites are staying on-site.
At the Haliburton, Kennisis Lake, and West Guilford landfills, all non-recyclable waste is taken to Twin Creeks Landfill and Environmental Center in Watford, Ontario because these locations are at capacity.
“Even with just having the program at the five landfill sites for two months now, there was such high demand, for example, at the Haliburton landfill, and they had to install a second bin just because the quantity of materials they were gathering at that location was so high. I think for the long run, we will definitely see these textile recycling bins at the five waste disposal sites.”
The program is operated by Cornerstone to Recovery which is partnered with Talize Inc.
“Cornerstone to Recovery is a registered non-profit organization that works with people who experience addiction and mental illness. So, they have a number of different programs offered. One of the ways they fundraise is by operating these textile recycling programs, so they’ve partnered with recycling rewards affiliated with Talize, so they do day-to-day operations of the program.”
Talize empties the textile bins from all four landfill sites once a week.
“We call it the milk run,” he laughed.
The materials are then sorted, and the ones that can be reused are sold in Talize stores. Others that are damaged or otherwise not usable are shredded, and the fibres can be used for insulation or filler.

Martha Lee-Blickstead wasn’t able to donate some of her unwanted textiles to other second-hand places, so she puts them in one of the recycling bins at the Haliburton landfill. /VIVIAN COLLINGS Staff

The partnership with Dysart et al landfills and Cornerstone to Recovery is completely not-for-profit.
Watson explained that textiles don’t break down in landfills the way we may expect them to.
“Some people have a misconception that within a landfill, garbage is breaking down and decomposing, and that clothes would do that as well, but that is not the reality. Because landfills are compacted and lacking air, water, and sunlight, things don’t break down very well.”
He said in 50 years from now, we will find textiles dumped today and they won’t have decomposed at all.
“It’s not promoting the idea of a circular economy by disposing of these items we have in that way when other people could be benefitting from using them.”

Watson said reduce and reuse are the most important of the three Rs, but this program promotes all three.
“I think people are doing a great job of making sure they’re dropping off their clothing and textiles and using clear bags which makes it easy for the landfill tenants to to ensure that it’s acceptable materials going into the bins.”
This also makes it easier for bins to be emptied because it keeps items clean and dry.
Items accepted are garments worn from “head to foot,” bedding, blankets, curtains, fabric, pillows, sleeping bags, and towels. Textiles should be clean, but torn, worn-out, and stained items are also accepted.
“It’s a great diversion program keeping that amount of material out of the landfills and is a real success and a testament to the residents of Dysart who are willing and wanting to divert these materials and have them recycled.”
To learn more about Dysart’s textile recycling program, visit