Sustainable Fashion

Fast Fashion: The Problem

Why can’t textiles be recycled just as paper or plastic?

Fact: More than half a billion kilograms of unwanted clothing ends up in Australian landfills every single year — 95% of this could have been recycled.

According to the ABC’s War on Waste, Australians throw away 6,000 kilos of fashion and textile waste every 10 minutes, whilst other sources estimate that that up to a third of all the garments produced annually around the world never leave the shop floor in the hands of a consumer.

Australians buy an average of 27 kilograms of new textiles each year and then discard about 23 kilograms* into landfill  – and two-thirds of those discards are man-made synthetic/plastic fibres that may never breakdown.

Whilst questioning our impact and through our own research into the problem we discovered that you cannot recycle or donate socks and undies in Australia. So, eventually they’ll end up in the bin. And that ends up alongside 501,000 tonnes of other textile landfill in Australia.

The ABS estimates reports 501,000 tonnes of leather and textiles are sent to landfill annually, and only a fraction of this appears to be being recovered through recycling.’


Where does it all go?

Globally, 87% of all disposed textiles are sent to landfill or incinerated; 12% is mechanically recycled by cutting it or shredding it into fibre, insulation material or rags; and less than 1% is chemically recycled back to reuseable raw materials.

Clare Press, Vogue Australia’s sustainability editor, published an article in 2019 that discussed whether a Circular Fashion system could ‘… save us all.’ In the article, Press stated that “… less than one per cent (of old clothing) is recycled into new clothing. Down-cycling into things like industrial rags or furniture stuffing is more likely. Used clothing is on-sold via re-commerce sites and flea markets, and donated to charities.It’s also exported by the bale to mitumba (second-hand) markets in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and elsewhere. Oxfam estimates that 70 per cent of used clothing donated to charities globally ends up in Africa, where mountains of cheap old clothes are killing local textile industries. Several East African countries are currently pushing for a ban.”

Guardian journalist Graham Ross reported that “It’s time for us to drive innovation in textile waste recovery to transform waste into new raw materials, track and collect systems to understand the scale of textile waste, and to identify high-value recycling streams and robotic sorting processes that will meet commercial-scale needs.”

Fast fashion needs radical intervention now, and we need to take responsibility for the entire life cycle of our products. Now is the time to take action.

Read more about our Solution.