Fashion and Waste

Fashion in Australia


Australian women know what they want to wear and their choice may vary considerably from what European and American women wear. They want to be comfortable in a variable climate and natural fibres which are breathable reduce perspiration and are warmer in cold conditions. Australian people favour casual attire when not dressed professionally for their workplace.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, every Australian contributes around two tonnes of waste each year – a mixture of household garbage and industrial waste

Fashion Less Waste Competition

This fashion design competition raised awareness of sustainability in fashion. Entrants made an outfit on a natural history theme, using recycled non-clothing materials.

Fashion and Reducing Waste PowerPoint


Waste is a shared responsibility

Why waste is a problem:-

Waste is a problem for many reasons including:-

  • Waste disposal can harm the environment and human health
  • Space for landfills is becoming scarce
  • Costs are increasing to use landfills and
  • Waste depletes valuable resources as more products need to be made to replace the thrown out products.

The main method of waste disposal in Australia is landfill. Textile waste in landfill contributes to the formation of leachate as it decomposes, which has the potential to contaminate groundwater with chemicals. Another product of decomposition in landfill is methane gas, which is a major cause of greenhouse gases, significantly contributing to global warming, although it can be utilised if collected. The decomposition of organic fibres and yarn such as wool produces large amounts of ammonia as well as methane. Ammonia is highly toxic in both land and water environments, and can be toxic in gaseous form. Cellulose-based synthetics decay at a faster rate than chemical-based synthetics. Synthetic chemical fibres can prolong the adverse effects of both leachate and gas production due to the length of time it takes for them to decay. In the past textile waste has been incinerated in large quantities, emitting organic substances such as dioxins, heavy metals, acidic gases and dust particles, which are all potentially harmful to both humans and the environment.

Textile Waste:-

Textile waste is made from the community members throwing out fibre, textile and clothing products and waste in the manufacturing industry, commercial and service industries. These are defined as pre-consumer (manufacturing), post-consumer (consumer waste) and industrial textile waste.

Pre-consumer textile waste

Pre-consumer textile waste is manufacturing waste that is generated by processing fibres, (natural or synthetic fibres) and the production of finished yarns and textiles, technical textiles, nonwovens, garments and footwear, including off-cuts, selvages, shearings, rejected materials and/or B-grade garments. Whilst “cabbage” (over estimated fabric meters and off-cuts of saleable size) has for many years, been resold into markets or made-up into smaller items, most pre-consumer textile waste in Australia is sent to landfill. Companies either arrange their own waste disposal, or use council managed services and pay landfill fees.

Post-consumer textile waste

Post-consumer textile waste consists of any type of garments or household textile (such as sheets or towels) that the consumer no longer needs and decides to discard, either because they are worn out, damaged, outgrown, or have gone out of fashion. This category has typically been of reasonable to good quality garment that can be recovered and subsequently recycled by another user as second-hand clothing, much of which is sold to third-world nations.

Clothing that is unlikely to be worn again is potentially functional as it may be shredded into fibre to be used in products similar in nature to those manufactured from pre-consumer textile waste, or it can be used as rags for industries, such as mechanics.

Solving textile waste:-

Today, recovering textile waste is a multi-billion dollar global industry that performs a vital social and environmental function and provides employment for millions of people all around the world.

In Australia the organised recovery of post-consumer textile waste is mainly undertaken by charities such as the Brotherhood of St Laurence, St Vincent De Paul and Life Line, although in recent times a small number of private operators have entered the market. Collection is mostly of second hand clothing (post-consumer waste) by means of community donations deposited into charity bins, thousands of which are located across Australia


Of the textile waste recovered by the charities, 60% is items of clothing that can be reworn or reused and 15% can be torn into industrial wiper cloths. Unfortunately, 25% is unusable and sent to landfill. This should be shredded and repurposed.

Regenerating Textiles

All textile waste are often sources of valuable raw materials that can be repurposed or regenerated into saleable and usable products by collection, sorting, reengineering and reprocessing. Products made by regenerating textile waste include carpet underlay, acoustic textiles used for soundproof blocks, insulation, roofing felt, bank stabilisation, and as pollution control filters.

An Australian Case Study:

The Smith Family’s Commercial Enterprise (TSF) located in the Sydney suburb of Villawood is a manufacturing facility that was established in 1987, as a means of utilising textile industry waste and the tonnes of surplus clothing that weren’t suitable for either sale through retail outlets or for export.

The first of three specialised lines went into operation to produce nonwoven fabrics from regenerated fibres. Carpet underlay, furniture removal felt, weed suppression and water retention felts are just some of the examples of products produced by the manufacturing line. Through the creative and innovative commercial utilisation of what would otherwise be waste product destined for landfill. They are able to convert hundreds of tonnes of waste clothing and material into manufactured non woven textile felts and fabrics.

Regeneration of textiles reduces the environmental impact of carbon emissions, energy use and toxic chemical by up to 70% of these textiles.

Investment for research, development and innovation for the purpose of acquiring new knowledge or creating new or improved materials, products, devices, processes or services to regenerate textiles should be positive for the Australian economy and reduce our environmental footprint. There has been limited effort by governments and companies in Australia to improve the recovery of textile waste.

Recovery of post-consumer textile waste is dependent on donations from the public. The increased use of recycled materials in products and the increased recovery of material for recycling can be achieved by educating the community on the benefits of recycling.

Textile waste is everyone’s responsibility from us as consumers through to industry and also our Governments have a role to play in reducing the level of waste and improving how we recycle and repurpose textile waste.

Written by Bridget