Clothing hauls are something all too familiar for Canberrans. Our ice-cold winters often lead us on the hunt to find clothing that can keep us warm even on the worst of winter days. In the last fifteen years, the clothing we buy has doubled, yet we wear clothes half as often before throwing them out.

According to the most recent National Waste Report, 800,000 tonnes of leather, rubber, and textiles were discarded in 2018–19, with a recycling rate of only 7%. After the United States, Australia is the world’s second-highest consumer of textiles per capita. On average, each Australian discards 23 kilograms of clothing per year.

As you look into your wardrobe, you might notice the diverse range of fabric and material used to make your garments. Clothes are made up of a variety of different fabric blends, which means they might not all be recycled  in the same way. For instance, cotton/polyester is the world’s most popular fabric blend but it’s one of the most difficult to recycle, as it’s made up of recycled plastic bottles rather than previous polyester clothing; a process which makes further recycling extremely difficult.

Purchasing clothes made from biodegradable materials such as bamboo, organic cotton, wool or hemp is also a great way to stay trendy and sustainable. Try to utilise clothing for longer periods and select clothing from regional manufacturers. Even better, look for a deal at your neighbourhood thrift store!

One step you can take before dropping old clothes off for disposal is to put your preloved goods onto community based platforms that include clothing exchanges, such as Buy Nothing groups and Gumtree.

Canberrans love swapping clothes. Recently on June 12, The CBR Gals Network teamed with Rosella Street, Flow Forage Grow, and Evie Kay to launch the Canberra WorkLeisure Clothes Swap. Canberrans participated in a local call to disrupt fashion consumption – encouraging fashion lovers to swap and not shop.

Conducting local clothes swaps with friends, families and colleagues is one simple way to reduce the amount of textiles going to landfill. Another great alternative to promoting a circular Canberra is recycling textiles that cannot be reused or repurposed. Fashion retail giants such as Zara and H&M provide a collection recycling service across all their Australian stores where people can donate unwanted clothes from any brand.

In the ACT, there is no clear pathway for residents to dispose of textile waste. It is time that here in the ACT we take stronger action on the textile waste crisis to slow down the large quantity of textiles going into landfill each year. Establishing distributed collection centres for textiles across Canberra will support Canberrans to reduce textiles going into landfill, and assist in reusing and repurposing strategies that underpin a circular economy.

This winter, take some time to rethink how and where you top up your wardrobe, make pre-loved clothes re-loved again, and look for clothes made from biodegradable products. Make every step you take be a part of the Race to Zero Waste.

Join us in calling on the ACT government to create a pathway for better textile recycling and waste management.