Australians bag about 15kgs of new clothing every single year and, when it comes to buying into fast fashion, we’re the second-highest consumer of textiles per capita in the world.
Our poor track record around recycling textiles and garments is more woeful than the return of the ballet pump—in 2019 we generated 780,000 tonnes of textile waste where only seven per cent was recycled and the rest went straight into landfill. Pair this with the morally ambiguous way in which fast fashion brands notoriously stamp an ‘ethical’ label on new designs like a bad ex donning a new haircut and suddenly we give ourselves a pat on the back and a green tick of approval without really being conscious of the way we consume clothing.
It’s also clear that Australia has a toxic relationship with clothing waste.
That’s why, for National Recycling Week (NRW), we really want to hone in on wardrobe waste. This year, the theme is all about ‘waste isn’t waste until it’s wasted’, a strong message pinned to giving your belongings a second life, reducing the need for buying new products and of course recycling.
We decided to speak with Alexis Todorovski from SCRgroup, Australia’s largest company for the recovery of Australia’s unwanted clothing and a key driver in diverting over 25 million kilograms of clothing from landfill, to get a better idea on how we can all pitch in and give our clothing and textiles a longer life expectancy.
Can you elaborate on the impact of ‘wear-it-once’ culture and what people need to keep in mind when purchasing new clothes?
Each time you purchase a new item, it has taken multiple natural and man-made resources to create.
Borrowing, renting or buying second-hand greatly reduces the resources being used and it also has less of an impact on the environment and your wallet. We are already seeing a shift in the ‘wear it once’ culture with many celebrities re-wearing iconic outfits on the red carpet.
It isn’t unfashionable to be wearing the same thing more than once, rather it speaks highly of your clothes being good quality and classic. If you are worried about being spotted re-wearing then there are fun and simple ways you can make an outfit look a little different. Styling it with different accessories, shoes and even hair and makeup can make a difference.
So, what’s the most impactful way to reduce your wardrobe's environmental footprint?
The most impactful way to reduce your wardrobe’s environmental footprint is to rewear your clothes until they are worn out. Research shows that clothing usually lasts between 100-200 wears, however, some pieces only get worn 10 times.
The next step is taking care of your clothes and making sure they last as long as possible. Take the time to check the garment care instructions to ensure you’re washing them correctly.
Both steps will help reduce the need to purchase new items, and when the time comes to buy something new, make sure your first stop is second-hand clothing, if you’re not able to find what you need there then purchase from sustainable brands that create high quality and long-lasting pieces.
How can we reduce our personal contribution to clothing landfill?
Making thoughtful and less frequent purchases will reduce the amount of unwanted clothing.
Repairing your clothes instead of throwing them away will also save you money. When you do want to get rid of your clothes, look at re-selling them online or at local marketplaces. If that’s not an option try for a drop-off clothing hub.
Finally, can you share some insight on how we can better keep our clothes part of the circular economy?
Rewearing your clothes, which doesn’t have to be limited to just you—swap your clothes with friends and family.
Reselling and donating your clothes to charities.
Upcycling your clothes and transforming them into something new also helps keep clothes part of the circular economy. You can turn an old pair of denim jeans quite easily into new denim shorts, and an old pillowcase can become a new bed for your pet.
SCRgroup is committed to diverting almost 100 per cent of its collections from landfill and what can’t be reused is turned into rags or biofuel.
Image credit: Urban List