Circular threads: product stewardship for textile industry

Friday, 27 November, 2020

Circular threads: product stewardship for textile industry

The Australasian Circular Textile Association (ACTA) unveils plans for a circular economy led by product stewardship in the textile industry.

In 2020, Australia’s environmental agenda has seen inspiring national leadership. The new Waste and Reduction Recycling Bill passed in August establishes new national criteria for waste handling, and the award of the Product Stewardship Centre of Excellence and National Product Stewardship Investment Fund (NPSI) will contribute to national environmental reform. In the recent NPSI program announcements textiles were the real winner, seeing three grants approved for major textile-related product categories:

  1. Corporate workwear (led by the Australasian Circular Textile Association).
  2. Mattresses (led by the Australian Bedding Stewardship Council).
  3. Outdoor synthetic textiles (led by the Vinyl Council of Australia).

These three distinct sub-categories of textiles will pioneer a broader industry transition to the circular economy.

The ACTA is pleased to have received funding to design its ‘Circular Threads: National Uniform and Workwear Stewardship Program’, supported by one of Australia’s largest uniform suppliers and users. Owner and director of Bisley, Australian manufacturer and supplier of heavy-duty industrious trade apparel, David Gazal expresses his commitment to long-term positive impact, “Bisley is really excited to be partnering with the ACTA and the Bisley team look forward to collaborating as part of our ongoing commitment to sustainable manufacturing practices.”

He went on to say, “We see the future of recycling textiles a critical component to meet our environmental and sustainable objectives. Our ultimate aim is to work with ACTA, along with Australian recycling companies, to convert used uniforms and workwear into fibres for future Bisley garments. This is a tremendous step towards reducing the amount of landfill generated by apparel and textiles each year — congratulations to ACTA on being granted funding for product stewardship.”

The aim of voluntary product stewardship is to engage key product manufacturers to take a collective interest in end-of-life responsibility for their products, utilising their scale to establish viable means of recovery. This will see the Australian textile industry step up as global leaders in the circular economy while creating local opportunities and jobs.

Australia Post has sought out solutions in the past to responsibly handle old uniforms. As a national company, which oversees various safety requirements in uniforms, Chief Sustainability Officer Susan Mizrahi highlights: “Uniforms are an integral part of many businesses’ operations; they protect our staff and show who we are, and their recycling at the end of their life helps reduce pressure on natural resources.

“Australia Post welcomes the National Product Investment Fund and the opportunity it provides to help develop a recycling industry for textiles in Australia; we look forward to working with ACTA on their program.”

The Vinyl Council of Australia is working with suppliers to ensure all vinyl-related products (coated/uncoated) in Australia will encompass responsible end-of-life disposal and recycling, (ie, banners flags, linoleum, accessories, furniture). Jan van de Graaff, the council’s National Product Stewardship Manager added: “The Australian Government has expressed its intent to move towards a circular economy and one that recognises the value and opportunities associated with waste.

“Effective and well-designed product and industry stewardship schemes have a big role to play in this area, through enhanced design for sustainability, improving the retention of resources within the productive economy and developing systems to capture and recover wastes.”

The Australian Bedding Stewardship Council will also be expanding its reach as a successful grant recipient, addressing persistent mattress waste for local governments and charities. While we know there’s an opportunity to recycle the majority of the components, there’s currently no way to recycle the fabric covers taken from all products.

The same applies to kids’ car seats. In late 2019, Seatcare received recognition from the federal government, whereby Minister Ley proposed childcare safety seats become a top priority recoverable waste item removed from landfill. More than 1,400,000 new child car seats are sold annually in Australia, and an estimated 200,000 are disposed of each year, the majority going to landfill. A lesser component of the product (which mostly can be recycled) is textile.

Asaleocare, another NPSI grant recipient, will be coordinating recycling trials and scheme design for its feminine sanitary items and incontinence pads, each of which contains a form of textile.

The breadth of textiles in use across the country far outweighs the volume in fast fashion (consumed and used) every year. Through investigative research and analysis, ACTA suggests current import data of textiles is significantly larger than what is tracked in disposal every year — as much as 50% more than commonly thought. The problem is bigger than what it seems.

As textiles garner more attention, the goal is to further expand the local knowledge and expertise to take industry growth to the next level. Echoed support came from the Vinyl Council of Australia in signifying the importance of schematic and systemic change: “It is great to see the federal government actively supporting the Australasian Circular Textiles Association given the strides that they have already taken to date and to foster stewardship of textiles in Australia.”

ACTA is the only textile-centric organisation seeking to partner long term with progressive organisations and the federal government. It is aiming to establish a circular economy, develop engaging global leadership programs, harness emerging technology, nurture future generations and grow audience markets between national cross-sectors.

Image credit: ©

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