The textile industry has seen spectacular growth in the 21st century. Consequently, the rise in consumption has amassed to phenomenal textile waste outputs, and mostly the values measured for the recyclable materials have been missed. 

In 2016, 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases were amassed from global textile production; approximately eight per cent (8%) of global emissions – and greater than that of all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Following current trends, textiles could account for twenty-six per cent (26%) of the global carbon budget by 2050

These are not insignificant numbers and they clarify the importance of, not just keeping textiles out of landfill, but reducing their consumption, working to prolong lifespans and create substitutes for virgin fibre production in a circular economy model.  

The Australasian Circular Textile Association (ACTA) is the nation’s first collaborative industry association, formed out of necessity to champion full resource efficiency for textiles within Australia. Whilst post-consumer apparel remains a key focus of ACTA, this is far bigger than fashion. 

A recognised national product stewardship scheme is ACTA’s primary focus, driving inclusive, collaborative and strategic projects across the broader textiles industry to see complete circularity in Australia. Our commitment to members is to create a non-competitive space, to accelerate learning whilst also providing a forum for input, and tackling fundamental issues of textile recovery that sit outside the control of individual companies.

ACTA looks to the government to provide clear signals to the market, in order to create certainty in three ways:


Our vision for progressing recovery outcomes in this space is outlined below:

CLARIFY VISIONS & TARGETS

Early 2020: Net-zero emissions from textile waste to landfill by 2030.

INFORMATION GATHERING & ANALYSIS

Mid 2020: Identify the current gaps in textile waste reporting and establish revised metrics for textile consumption and disposal.

Late 2020: Implement revisions to auditing guidelines and make data available to industry.

Early 2021: Develop an emissions-based model for textiles in Australia to inform policy setting and pathways to zero-emissions. 

FORMULATE STRATEGY

Late 2021: Guide industry with an infrastructure needs-analysis for textiles, highlighting the areas of focus for technology R&D, and the opportunities for infrastructure support. 

IMPLEMENT STRATEGY

2022 – 2030: Deliver programs and policies to businesses to reduce waste generation and improve source separation/presentation.

2022 – 2030: Deliver program support to research and development of pre-commercial technologies and provide support to infrastructure investment for commercial technologies. 

EVALUATE & ITERATE

2021 – 2030: Capture and report data consistently to track changes in the waste stream and de-risk private infrastructure investment in this space.

Planning a textiles workflow

Textiles are known to have a disproportionately high carbon impact, making improvement in this area a meaningful way to contribute to the larger state targets on emissions reductions.  

To realise this opportunity, there are several key research tasks to be delivered. A chronology of research tasks has been outlined below, each of which will be informed by the results of the initial study (enclosed in this proposal):

#1 How we measure, what we measure: Aggregating currently disparate data across charities, C&I, household and illegal dumping sectors to inform true textile disposal data and policy direction/prioritisation.  High-level analysis of textile consumption patterns to; validate disposal-based textile waste generation estimates, and scope circular economy opportunities.

#2 Update auditing guidance: The results of task one should be integrated into existing auditing guidance documents to allow the ongoing measurement and management of textiles to 2030 and beyond.  Aggregated data moving forward will be critical to attracting private investment to textile recovery.

#3 Developing an emissions-based approach to textile policy reform: Generate detailed carbon accounts for the textile sector in Australia, quantifying current emissions from landfill and opportunities under a circular economy.  Plot pathways to achieving state net-zero emissions from textiles in landfill.

#4 Technology & infrastructure planning:  The total absence of existing textile recovery technology and infrastructure means the government must be strategic in planning and approvals.  A clear understanding and vision for the needs and spatial flows of resources in the textile sector (on the basis of fibre types, contamination and presentation) should inform program funding pathways.

#5 Policy & program design: Textiles are consumed throughout households and businesses, making the delivery of fair policy to drive industry action tricky.  This project would undertake a horizon scan and review of textile waste policies implemented elsewhere in the world, and build on knowledge of the Australian context to recommend suitable levers for each state (i.e. landfill bans, stewardship, tax incentives etc.).  To support policy, this project would also use ACTA’s network insights to determine the areas where government grant programs can deliver change most effectively.


For further information on the ‘A Common Thread: ACTA’s 2030 Strategy’ please download a copy here