A new report has called for the Australian government and fashion industry to reduce its significant fashion footprint and demonstrate leadership in sustainable practices by prioritising planetary and human health.
- Developed by the Circular Economy Textiles team at Monash University’s Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI), the Textiles: A transitions report for Australia report is the culmination of four years of research in the Australian textiles and fashion space.
- The report was released Monday ahead of the Melbourne Fashion Week.
The Seven Transition Pathways: With almost three quarters of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) impacted by the textiles industry, the report recommends setting goals that are measurable and time-bound to reduce the country’s overall material footprint by:
- Reducing overall consumption of resources across the product lifecycle
- Banning the destruction of fashion and textile 'finished goods'
- Investing in education on responsible and sustainable industry practices
- Accelerating government sustainable procurement
- Incentivising use of recycled, non-virgin materials
- Increasing and regulating textile transparency, traceability and verification
- Increasing support for the development and execution of clothing extended producer responsibility (EPR).
The priority actions: Report co-authors and sustainable textiles experts Julie Boulton and Aleasha McCallion have identified two priority actions to embark upon this transition:
- Establish a round-table event to unite stakeholders across the fashion and textile eco-system, to co-design an Australian sector that is both responsible and sustainable.
- Identify a comprehensive vision for the Australian fashion and textile industry, which sets specific time-bound, evidence-informed transition targets. This vision will include a discussion over acceptable responsible growth in line with planetary boundaries and sustainable development objectives.
Sizeable Fashion Footprint: Australia’s fashion and textiles sector comes with a sizeable environmental impact. Consuming non-renewable resources, producing non-recyclable materials, and importing and exporting large volumes of product contributes to biodiversity harm, high water and energy use, air, earth and water pollution, carbon emissions, and material waste deposits sent to landfill. Some of the impacts outlined in the report:
- Australians are the second largest consumers of textiles globally, behind the US, purchasing on average an estimated 27kg of new fashion and textiles each year. This is twice the global average of 13kg per person.
- Australians buy 14.8kg of clothing every year - equating to 56 new items per person, per year - making Australia one of the highest clothing consumers in the world.
- Of annual new sales purchases, it is estimated that 92% of clothing items will outflow in the same year.
- Australians dispose of on average 23kg of clothing per person, per year, the value of which is approximately $500 million.
- Approximately 800,000 tonnes of textiles go to landfill each year; this represents approximately 93% of the textile waste Australians generate.
- Approximately two-thirds of material sent to landfill is non-renewable, non-degradable, and synthetic, which will take hundreds of years to break down - releasing carbon emissions as it does.