This Canadian city has big plans for your old T-shirts.

"It's the circle of life..."

There's one in every closet.

It's torn at the hem and along the neckline. There are stains all over — some you remember, some you don't. It's been washed so many times that it's see-through, making it simultaneously the definition of comfort and completely unwearable in public — which is fine because it has shrunk in some places and stretched in others and hasn't really fit right in years.


Sometimes shabby-chic just isn't a really good look. Image via iStock.

It's your favorite T-shirt, and it really needs a new home. Markham, Ontario, wants to give it one.

This small-but-mighty suburb of Toronto has been recycling for a really long time.

They've recycled newspapers for nearly three decades, later expanding to aluminum cans, glass bottles, plastics, then electronics, then composting. There are places to drop off appliances, household waste, and old electronics. But until recently, there was nothing for textiles. That's a problem for nearby landfills.

Landfills: A great place for hungry birds — not a great place for your clothes. Image via iStock.

A 2015 survey of Ontario residents found that only 15% of unwanted textiles in the region were recycled.

For the Markham region specifically, that meant that about 4,425 tons of textile waste ended up at the garbage dumps every year, making up about 7% of their volume. City sanitation workers knew it was happening — they already operate a "clear bag" program for waste so everything on its way to a landfill is easy to see. And with fast fashion encouraging consumers to buy cheap, quick clothes with short lives, the mountain of textiles in the local landfill was only going to get bigger.

For the government of Markham, this felt like something they could fix — or even eliminate completely.

Their first step in taking on textile waste was talking to the people of Markham about it. What they found out was fascinating.

They discovered that residents were open to donating and recycling more of their textiles, but that they only wanted to pass on their nicest articles of clothing. Claudia Marsales, Markham's senior waste manager, described the city's findings to the CBC. "People only thought you could donate something that was perfect."

While that's very thoughtful, it misses the second life that many less-than-perfect textiles can have after being recycled. Less-fashionable or rewearable clothes, along with other unwanted textiles and fabrics, can be repurposed in many fascinating ways: making automotive rags, home insulation, carpet padding, diapers, landscaping fabrics, even "smart skin" for medical researchers. There are second lives for clothes, blankets, sleeping bags, furniture fabric, mattress padding, backpacks, rugs, cushions, curtains, and, — since it's Canada — winter outerwear and gear.

Earlier this year, the town introduced "Markham Tackles Textiles," a new program designed to make fabric recycling easier than ever before.

Now there are adorably designed textile donation bins located in convenient places around the city where people can drop off unwanted textiles. A local charitable organization sorts through the donations and preps them for their second life.

Pictured: your old clothes and bedding, en route to a brand-new life. Image via iStock.

The nicest and most fashionable clothing and bedding donations will head to local charity thrift shops for sale. Others will be bundled into 1,000-pound bales and sold to private companies for reuse in a variety of industrial purposes. Only when all other opportunities for reuse are exhausted are some products sent on to the landfill.

Getting serious about textile recycling is one more step toward sustainability for this Canadian city.

It's already Canada's first "monarch-friendly" city, devoted to protecting the habitat of the popular but endangered butterfly. It operates one of the largest solar-powered installations in the region. Markham is focused on local food and green transportation, managing a community seed library, regular farmers markets, and a 125-mile network of bike paths. Now it's committing to another incredibly ambitious goal: recycling 100% of unwanted textiles in the community.

For Claudia Marsales, this textile recycling program is also part of a campaign to educateMarkham residents about the social andenvironmental effects of disposablefashion and encourage them to think about the end-of-life for all fabric products they buy.

As for that unwanted old T-shirt you can't seem to let go of, this might be the perfect place. As Marsales told the York Region this month: “The message is we will take every piece you have.”

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I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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