Joint media release: Roundtable to find answers to unfashionable problems

26 May 2021

As the fashion industry descends on Sydney in a week’s time for Australian Fashion Week, the Morrison Government is today bringing together industry leaders from around the country to Canberra to address the ugly side of fast fashion.

Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of plastic waste generated from our clothing is entering landfill every year, prompting the Government to prioritise clothing textile waste and invest $1 million to fund a new grant round under the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley made the announcement at the first ever National Roundtable on Clothing Textile Waste which saw industry disruptors, retailers, reuse charities, fibre producers, academics, and waste management companies come together to talk about Australia’s throw away fashion culture.

“This roundtable is not about ending our love of fashion it is about creating new economic opportunities to what is an unfashionable problem,” Minister Ley said.

“We want to keep clothing out of landfill, where it can take hundreds of years to break down, releasing harmful carbon emissions along the way, and we do not want to bombard our charities with clothes that are not fit for reuse.

“Clothing charities can be a great place to thrift shop, but they are not the place to send our tatty, pre-loved clothes that are barely hanging by a thread, and no amount of wishcycling will change that.”

Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management Trevor Evans said the successful grant applicant will need to bring the industry together to design a strategy that will eliminate textile waste, use less resources and design for reuse at every step of the supply chain.

“Australians discard close to 800,000 tonnes of clothing and textiles each year, a rate of 15 tonnes every 10 minutes,” Assistant Minister Evans said.

“We need to find new solutions to this problem and today we are prioritising textile waste in a big way.

“Seed funding through the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund will encourage one of our most creative industries to collaborate, innovate and find solutions to a very untrendy problem.”

The roundtable will be accompanied by an exhibition showcasing the latest developments in the textile waste recycling space and highlighting both the challenges and opportunities of addressing textile waste here in Australia.

Today’s announcement complements the Morrison Government’s commitment in February to fund new technologies that can separate and re-purpose polyester and cotton components and create remanufacturing opportunities, and jobs in Australia for workwear and uniforms.

FAST FACTS:

Australia is reported to have the second highest consumption of textiles per capita in the world (second to the United States)

Each Australian consumes an average of 27 kg of new textiles per year and disposes an average 23kgs of textiles to landfill each year

According to the 2020 National Waste Report, in 2018-19 Australia generated 780,000 tonnes of textile waste. Only 7% of this waste was recycled (mostly exports) with the remaining 93% sent to landfill

In 2019-20, Australia exported 47,320 tonnes of textile waste. Of this, 99% was worn clothing and other worn textiles. The top three export destinations were United Arab Emirates (55%), Malaysia (19%) and Pakistan (8%)

The Morrison Government recently boosted funding to National Product Stewardship schemes, committing an additional $5.9 million from the 2021-22 Budget to reduce waste and increase resources recovery.