In NSW, the recent Southern Sydney Regional Organisation for Councils (SSROC) Kerbside Waste Audit found four-point-five per cent (4.5%) of general waste comprised of textiles waste.

Through preliminary desktop research, ACTA calculates this is an underestimation and inaccurately portraying the growing problem of textile’s impact through carbon emissions in landfills.

Current NSW policy on kerbside auditing guidelines rule that textiles be narrowly included in the ‘textile/carpet’, however, textiles are recurrent in many other categories. The guidelines do not paint a clear picture of textile waste particularly between synthetic fibres and natural fibres. The breakdown in reporting and data gathering is the codes used when assessing textile waste because the codes do not account for all textile waste streams.

This means textile waste is having a bigger and more serious effect on the environment than the industry and government realise. The way forward is to enact effective change, clarify data, proactive policy and greater certainty in supportive programs within and around the textile industries – it is essential.

To better understand the scope of textile waste, ACTA recalculated last year’s kerbside waste audit to include all the categories listed under the NSW guidelines. In doing so, ACTA uncovered the likelihood of textiles being at least the third-largest component in kerbside waste, following food waste and contaminated paper. 

Kerbside does not include problematic bulky waste; such as mattresses, carpets, furniture, and luggage – the residential bulky waste stream is likely to contribute 10-12% of the thirty thousand tonnes of textile material in landfill.

Bear in mind these figures do not account for textile waste from the charity sector, illegal dumping, or mattress recycling services. Furthermore, this information is only collated from regulated areas of NSW, meaning it’s assumed large agricultural and manufacturing sources of textile waste have been omitted.

After processing this information, you can see how easily textile waste can be underestimated – if the scale of it is yet to be understood, how can policy properly address the problem? NSW, along with all Australian states, has a long-term Net Zero plan, and textiles would play a significant role in its success considering the materials relatively high levels of embodied carbon.

It is time to intervene with the textiles workflow, industry and government in collaboration. 

An open dialogue about these issues is necessary to move forward and better understand the steps needed to tackle the problem. ACTA has devised ‘A Common Thread, 2030 Strategy’, explaining the vision and steps to improve the process forthcoming.

Textiles are likely underrepresented in kerbside waste auditing as well as the commercial and industrial (C&I) waste streams and bulky waste collections. It is difficult to find accurate figures on the occurrence, let alone composition of the textile waste. The key is to do away with future miscalculations, recalibrate composite waste from otherwise complicated industry waste streams, in order to provide effective analysis for appropriate policy making.

Part of ACTA’s strategic plan is to identify and fill gaps to dictate smart future policies; where consistent action in accordance with the new policies is upheld with rigorous auditing/reporting practices to track progress.

Reforming long-standing infrastructure is never easy, but with collaboration, an eye for detail, and focus on environmentalism at the helm, ACTA strives to facilitate positive change in the textiles industry and reduce textile waste.



Co-Authored by ACTA intern Isabella Krebet (RMIT Journalism Student) & ACTA Founder/CEO Camille Reed