A $1 million stitch in time for Australia’s fast fashion addiction
Our name is Australia, and we have a fashion waste problem. It’s been only seconds since we purchased some unnecessary sneakers, T-shirts or polyester dresses.
Now the federal government is dispensing with the need for anonymous confessions, as Environment Minister Sussan Ley delivers a $1 million grant to the Australian Fashion Council that will be used towards addressing the ugly side effects of our fast fashion addiction.
“I don’t think we realise that Australians are the second-largest consumers of textiles in the world. We consume 27 kilograms of clothing and throw away 23 kilograms,” Ms Ley said. “We need a road map to 2030 to halve the waste. That’s 800,000 tonnes of textile waste. Of course, we need to act on it.”
Ethically-minded founder of Melbourne brand Elk, Marnie Goding, welcomes the $1 million grant awarded by the Federal Government to the Australian Fashion Council.Credit:Luis Ascui
The grant will fund the creation of Australia’s first National Product Stewardship Scheme for clothing textiles to devise strategies for improved recycling, recovery and reuse of textiles.
“There is lots of consciousness within the fashion sector of the problems surrounding importing incredibly cheap clothing that we end up throwing in the ground in Australia, leading to contamination,” Ms Ley said. “This demands a stronger call to action.”
With British brand Topshop leading the fast fashion charge into the Australian market in 2009, followed by Zara in 2011 and H&M in 2014, concerns have been growing for years over our casual consumption, but Ms Ley said that only now has there been enough support to act.
“If you asked someone five years ago, I don’t think it would resonate the way it is now,” she said. In June, clothing textile waste was added to the National Priority Waste List by Ms Ley, alongside electronics, plastic oil containers and child car seats.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley and AFC acting chief executive Kellie Hush, tackling fashion’s textiles problem together.Credit:Alex Ettinghausen, James Brickwood
The $1 million grant seems quite little and quite late for Marnie Goding, founder of ethically-designed womenswear label Elk, which is taking part in a sustainability-themed show as part of Melbourne Fashion Week on Wednesday.
“Anything that the industry and the government can do to solve the mounting challenge to deal with textile waste is incredible,” Ms Goding said. “In the past five to six years we’ve seen other countries forging ahead with new ways to address this problem. Until now, we have not heard anything from the Australian side.”
For more than eight years, Ms Goding has been exploring ways that Elk can address its waste issues and will soon launch a renewal program to upcycle and repair old products. “But some items end up trashed and they have to become landfill. There’s only so much mattress packing you can make. This is at least a welcome step in the right direction.”
This is the second $1 million grant awarded to the Australian Fashion Council this year. In May, the AFC was given funds to promote Australian brands by developing a trademark to certify locally produced products.
“We need to turn each Marie Kondo into Marie Conscious,” said Kellie Hush, acting chief executive of the AFC. “Each business and organisation with a touchpoint in both the supply chain and product life cycle must recognise their responsibility and actively contribute to textile circularity and reduction of waste.”
The AFC will work alongside Charitable Recycling Australia, Queensland University of Technology, Sustainable Resource Use and WRAP to better manage our fashion problem.
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