Blenderz Garment Recyclers: Redefining Textile Recycling

blenderz garment recyclers redefining textile recyling

I wrote a post about Blenderz soon after it first opened about 1 year ago. I got the opportunity to interview Sarah Janzen, the owner, and she has such a passion for doing everything possible to protect the planet. Check out the original post here.

Blenderz is Edmonton’s first zero-waste, zero export textile recycling facility. They take items that don’t sell from thrift stores and reclaim the materials back into our local supply chain. Blenderz just won the 2021 zero-waste award for textile recycling by the Alberta Recycling Association.

Blenderz is revolutionizing fabric recycling in Edmonton, but they need your help! In 9 months of operations, Blenderz reclaimed 83.1 tons of textile waste from two small thrift stores – isn’t that amazing?? Just imagine what they could do with upgraded equipment!

They have partnered with ATBfinancial for a crowdfunding campaign to fund state-of-the-art textile recycling equipment for the new location! Check out the awesome rewards and snag one before they sell out. Rewards include monthly clothing box deliveries at deeply discounted prices, gift cards on sale, gift a box to someone in need, or pick a private shopping spree!   

Pick your rewards here!

The delivery boxes I’ve received from Blenderz have been full of great stuff! It’s crazy to think that all of that clothing would have ended up in landfills if Blenderz hadn’t recovered it.

I got a chance to ask Sarah about what this crowdfunding campaign will achieve, and the work Blenderz is doing!

What machinery will you be using, and what can it do?

Most of the machinery used at Blenderz is in the recycling component of Blenderz.

The sanitizing washing machine and dryer are industrial-sized and can handle up to 400 lbs a day. This is still a small amount considering the number of textiles being discarded or exported a day from Edmonton alone. Here’s a flowchart demonstrating how textiles can be sorted and managed.

sorted textiles flowchart Blenderz

We currently use a custom-made shredder in combination with hand cutting, and we are finding that we need to upscale our shredder to process higher volumes and different textures of fibers. There is a company in Quebec that is making us one to custom fit the Blenderz business model. This company has worked on other pilot projects for fiber reclamation and we are really excited to be working with them.

recycling textiles equipment blenderz
shredded textiles Blenderz

What do you do with textiles that are beyond reuse?

The Pay By The Pound clothing is relatively easy to deal with, and the items that are not good for resale we send through our repair, and remake, reteach process. 

First, we sort the unusable items into their product lines and sanitize, disassemble items to cut, sew or shred to assemble into different products, including:

  1. crafting kits
  2. wholesale materials to makers 
  3. upcycled clothing and home items
  4. custom upcycling for businesses
pouf crafting kit blenderz
Pouf/Ottoman Crafting Kits
rag rugs crafting kit blenderz
Rug Weaving Crafting Kits

When will you reopen to the public?

The reopening date is targeted for March 2022. We have doubled our size and are now able to be open to the public seven days a week instead of only on the weekends. In our previous location, we were switching over our production line from the sales floor every Monday. Basically, we were doing two functions in one space. Now we will be able to do both simultaneously. We are so excited for our grand reopening. 

Do you sell items that have been repaired and upcycled?

We do! A lot of items that have been repaired go back into the regular stream of items or into the boxes. For this, the repair is usually pretty simple and does not take a lot of time, such as a blown seam or strap. 

If a repair requires a significant amount of time and is of high quality, has an artistic spin, we sell these in our upcycled line called Blenderz Remakes. We will cover corporate logos or rips with fun patches or custom applique, quilt pieces, or whatever works in the specific situation. I think because jackets are one of the more complicated garments, we remake a lot of them. 

upcycled sweater blenderz

What do you do with footwear?

If we do get footwear by accident and it is in good condition we put it on the floor for sale by the pound. The Blenderz mission is to recycle everything that comes in the doors. 

When footwear is not in good condition there is currently no option to recycle footwear. We have tried repairing it in-house and it is very difficult and costly for us. Goodwill does not recycle footwear; I have verified multiple times. We could give it to another charity (e.g., soles4souls) but what are they going to do with one shoe from a pair? Or sneakers that are so damaged they will wreck your feet with blisters and other bad things? They throw them out. Unfortunately, we haven’t found a good option and do have to throw them out. There are some programs through Nike and Adidas with take-back programs, but that’s a whole other blog post.

I think when we consider sending our unwanted Items to poor places via thrift stores (they sell all the excess to sorting houses and exporters), there are some situations to contemplate:

  1. Are they getting where they are supposed to go? Garments and shoes are sold by the pound and if there are some poor quality items in there that is just counted as a loss in the grade of goods, and everything needs to be disposed of or recycled eventually. 
  2. Are they items that will actually serve the recipient according to them? Modern shoes that are poor quality or in very bad shape are almost impossible to repair. Some of the shoes we buy in North America are even made out of cardboard and plastic paint (e.g., cheap flats).

Thank you Sarah for sharing this information with us! We can support Blenderz with their mission by contributing to the ATBfinancial crowdfunding campaign. We also can support them by being more conscious of our clothing and textiles. We can choose to shop secondhand, repair and reuse as much as possible.

We can make textile recycling a reality!


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