Australia recycles paper and plastics. So why does clothing end up in landfill?
It’s time to acknowledge textile waste for what it is: a valuable resource ready to be transformed into raw materials
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, recently announced a fund of $20m to grow Australia’s recycling industry and a commitment to ban the export of plastic, paper, glass and tyres.
While this has been lauded as a step in the right direction, it does beg the question: what about Australia’s growing textile waste problem?
More than 501m kg of unwanted clothing ends up in landfills across the nation each year. This doesn’t include the 94m kg exported overseas.
These are just conservative figures because the sheer volume of the nation’s textile waste problem is just an approximation. Unlike glass and plastics, textile waste is not tracked by any state or federal government waste strategies or waste management plans.
As evidenced by the PM’s $20m commitment at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Cairns, it would seem the growing textile waste problem is not even on the radar of either tier of government. But you can’t solve a problem unless you acknowledge it exists and then identify ways to deal with it.
There’s an adage in business that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Because we don’t track our growing textile waste problem, the environmental impact is not at the top of the minds of all key decision-makers.
Here’s one reason why it should be: your activewear is made from the same material that makes single-use plastic bottles – PET.