Edmonton business aims to keep clothing out of landfills

In October, an Edmonton entrepreneur launched a new business designed to prevent textiles from ending up in the landfill.

“We pick up all the textiles that are unwanted or unusable by local charity shops or thrift stores and then we grade them in-house,” Blenderz Garment Recyclers. owner, Sarah Janzen, said. “Anything that’s usable, we will put into boxes or we will open up for pay by the pound.”

She said the amount of clothing that ends up in the garbage — even after being donated — is shocking.

“I pick up 800 pounds three times a week and that is barely covering the overflow from one charity shop in Edmonton.”

Many of the items are almost new, or brand name.

“I got a Huge Boss jacket the other day. There’s some beautiful pieces of clothing that are in there, there’s just an oversupply of used clothing. I think fast fashion is a culprit as well,” Janzen explained.

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Her goal is to find new homes and uses for the garments locally.

“Anything that’s not usable or wearable, we will recycle. So we actually tear down the material, we take it apart and use it in our various classes and our crafting kits.”

When items have rips or stains, they’re cut up and turned into other products.
When items have rips or stains, they’re cut up and turned into other products. Courtesy: Sarah Janzen

So far, she’s teamed up with some local makers including House of Sew, Cowabunga Clothing and Fern’s School of Craft to find creative ways of repurposing the clothing.

Clients can take classes on making floor poufs or rag rugs from the fabrics.

Janzen also sells the clothes by the box, sorted by size and gender for $20 or less.

Each box contains around 20 pounds of clothing.

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WATCH: DIY Upcycling: How to bring new life into old objects

Ann Lukey is a Blenderz customer.

“I had a pile on my floor easily three feet high,” she said, explaining just how much clothing comes in a box.

Lukey normally goes thrifting with her daughter, looking for treasures, but in the pandemic, she said this has been a perfect alternative.

“I love that idea of just making use of what we already have.”

She unboxed a vintage suede coat with a warm inner lining that she loves.

“It was probably one of my favourite finds because it’s something I plan to wear often.”

Lukey was so inspired by the idea of garment recycling, she wanted to further the cause. She decided to share her haul with neighbours, calling it the #yegswapbox.

“You put the items that are unused back in the box and then top it up with other items because we all have items in our closets,” she explained.

“Whatever you can’t use, pass it along to somebody else.”

READ MORE: Edmonton not-for-profit making ‘huge, positive impact on the environment’

As for Janzen, her business is growing day after day and she’s working hard to keep up with requests for boxes.

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“The garage is full. It’s up to the rafters. We’re sorting as fast as we can.”

Because of the success, she’s planning to open a warehouse space in February, where people can come in, sort through bins of clothes and pay by the pound.

“It’s really amazing to see the uptake and the interest in upcycling, reusing, conserving resources, community spirit,” she said.

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