Increasingly we are discovering the impact of our consumption. This was highlighted all too clearly in the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent report about the impact of fashion in Ghana. Titled ‘Dead white man’s clothes’, the story looks at what happens to the clothes that the Western world no longer wants. There is good news though, brands and individuals are pushing for change. In this article we break down the issue; explain what a circular economy is; and share some Australian businesses leading the charge.
What’s the problem?
Fast fashion and textiles are creating a growing waste problem around the world and Australians are a big part of it. Here are some fast facts on the state of the problem:
- 100 billion garments are produced globally each year, with 33% going to landfill within the first year of purchase
- Every 10 minutes, an estimated 6000 kilograms of textiles and clothing are dumped in landfill in Australia
- On average, a garment is only worn 7 times before it is discarded
- Australians consume double the amount of textiles annually compared to the global average of 13kg per person
Where does all the waste go? To developing countries, overwhelming their waste sector. Watch the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent, Linton Besser’s article below to see the impact.
What’s the solution?
A solution being widely discussed as a good option is a circular economy for textiles and fashion. A circular economy involves moving away from the take-make-waste model and towards a circular model whereby products are designed in a way that can be reused. It could look something like this model by McKinsey & Company:
This video by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation sums it up perfectly:
It’s really about a mindset shift – instead of seeing clothes you no longer want as waste, see them as an opportunity for something new. What this would mean for fashion and textiles in particular would be less reliance on finite resources; a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions; and wearing clothes for longer.
What are businesses doing here?
More fashion and textile businesses are adopting a more circular model, and good on you (an ethical rating website/app for fashion) helps us to see how brands are performing ethically. Here are some brands leading the way in circular fashion in Australia:
Etiko is an Australian designer of organic, eco-friendly and fair-trade shoes and clothing. They offer a Take Back program for their footwear which are upcycled into furniture and gives you a dollar discount on your next purchase.
This Melbourne-based, Australian-made fashion label utilises renewable, organic and recycled materials to create its products. They run workshops to teach you how to repair your garments and also offer free life-time repairs. They also take back their garments through their recycling program, turning them into new products. Most of their products can also be home composted!
Not only does the Social Outfit provide employment and training to people from refugee and new migrant communities in clothing production, retail, design and marketing, they also source their fabrics and textiles from waste/leftovers from other brands have saved 8.5 tonnes of textile waste from landfill. Plus – you can learn basic mending skills with their free online webinars!
Reluv helps to minimise the impact of the fashion industry by increasing the utilisation of clothing. They sell second-hand clothing that would otherwise have gone to waste. You can send them your second-hand clothing and find a new outfit yourself.
A recycling business, Upparel takes textiles that you no longer want and turns them into new products. They work to make fashion circularity to be easy and appealing for individuals and organisations.
Twoobs is a ‘kinda footwear brand’ that uses recycled materials saved from landfill to create new shoes. They also have a take back program where you can send them shoes you’re finished with and they get them turned into playground mats!
It is fantastic to see that so many Australian brands are taking the lead in engaging in circular fashion – and this list isn’t exhaustive. Of course, there is still more work to be done to encourage big brands to take on the circular model, but next time you’re after something new for your wardrobe, why not look to one of these brands first?
By Rebecca Arandall