Circular textiles

As global consumption and waste associated with textiles continues to accelerate, with clothing production more than doubling in the past 15 years[i] while 85% of apparel purchased in Australia is sent directly to landfill at end of life[ii], there are opportunities to ensure clothing, textiles and fibres remain circulating in the economy at their highest value and utility. 

Green Industries SA is working to address how textiles can become more circular through its policy framework, research, investment and programs.

Policy in South Australia

South Australia’s Waste Strategy 2020-2025

Textile waste is identified as a problematic waste in South Australia’s Waste Strategy 2020-25.

Priority actions under the strategy include:

  • supporting investment in textile recovery technology
  • researching opportunities that may reduce the generation of textile waste and increase the recovery of textiles
  • advocating for approaches that motivate individuals to dispose of unwanted textiles in a responsible manner.

Opportunities for circular textiles report

Green Industries SA and Greenaround Consulting have completed a report which examines opportunities for textiles circularity in South Australia. 

This followed stakeholder consultation across the textiles value chain, including producers, users and resource recovery, and describes the opportunities for textiles circularity in South Australia by:

  • investigating South Australia's current capacity to handle and recover textiles, and how/where it can be expanded
  • considering current challenges and barriers for textiles circularity
  • identifying further opportunities and interventions to the current system. 

This work has informed Green Industries SA’s development of immediate term steps that can and will inform future business planning processes and investments undertaken within South Australia. 

Read the report.

Federal policy

The Commonwealth Minister for Environment has listed clothing textiles on the 2022–23 Minister’s product stewardship priority list which identifies products and materials considered to be most in need of a product stewardship approach.

To support this, a product stewardship scheme for clothing is in development. This is being led by the Australian Fashion Council in collaboration with Charitable Recycling Australia, Queensland University of Technology, Sustainable Resource Use and WRAP to create Australia’s first National Clothing Product Stewardship Scheme. It aims to improve the design, recovery, reuse and recycling of textiles in line with National Waste Policy Action Plan targets.


National Innovation Games

In May 2022, GISA was a sponsor of the National Innovation Games, held at the Adelaide Town Hall. The focus of the games was ‘A Sustainable Fashion, Clothing and Textile Sector in South Australia’.

Almost 70 businesses, along with policymakers, entrepreneurs and students from around the country participated in the hybrid workshop/online model to tackle various challenges relating to textiles. 

Through a series of professionally facilitated design sprints, more than 15 innovation teams including more than 150 diverse participants from across the complete fashion and textile ecosystem collaborated over 2 days.

The objective of the games was to develop practical, scalable and easily implementable ideas and solutions spanning the product lifecycle, from material selection and design, certification and product sourcing, to manufacturing processes, supply chain management, use behaviours and waste or product end of life.

Circular Social Enterprise Incubator

GISA has partnered with Collab4Good and StartSome Good to deliver the 2022 ‘Heaps Good Hustle’ Circular Economy Incubator program. The program supports people with a circular economy idea who are ready to take further action to test, validate and clarify their concept, while also and gaining access to new networks, customers and investment to bring their idea to life. The program will culminate in a pitch night and, for those enterprises who are ready, the kick-off of a crowdfunding campaign to get them underway.

Participant: Cinch

Cinch is developing a series of workshops on sustainability within the textiles industry, focusing on hands-on skill development while learning about the full lifecycle of garments. These fun and interactive classes will be geared towards a variety of audiences to develop individuals’ awareness of the circular economy, the effects of consumer choices, and how small changes can have a positive impact on the environment. Throughout these courses, individuals will have a chance to get involved by learning how to mend, repair or repurpose clothing and other fabrics. 


Women in Circular Economy

2018 winner: Shani Wood

Environmental Officer with the City of Holdfast Bay Shani Wood was awarded the Green Industries SA Women in Circular Economy Leadership Award in 2018.

Ms Wood developed key behaviour change projects for the City of Holdfast Bay which resulted in improved waste management and recycling rates. Her project addressed the global issue of textile waste by investigating practices in Australia, Hong Kong, the UK, and Belgium and, by drawing on these experiences, influenced improved practices in South Australia. ‘In the world of fast fashion, textile waste is an ever-growing issue of global significance. After the US, Australians are the second-largest consumers of textiles,’ says Ms Wood.

‘New technology and programs need to be embraced to help reduce the approximate 85% of textile waste that goes to landfill in Australia. While South Australia leads the country in waste and resource recovery practices, textile waste remains a significant challenge and opportunity.

‘Addressing textile waste is an important step in South Australia’s transition to a more circular economy particularly in the area of technology and re-manufacturing.’

Read the full report.

[i]Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017, A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning fashion’s future.

[ii]Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, Towards the Australian Environmental-Economic Accounts: Waste