Reducing Textile Waste

Reducing Textile Waste

At Here and there Makers we are passionate about reducing waste in all its forms, and textile waste is a particular focus. What is textile waste you ask? Textile waste is any discarded or leftover material that is generated during the production, consumption, or disposal of textiles. This includes textile scraps, rejected products, used clothes, and other textile-related items such as accessories and footwear.

Why does this matter to me? Well, reducing textile waste matters for multiple reasons as it creates significant environmental, social, and economic harm.

Textile WasteAustralia is the 2nd highest consumer of textiles per person in the world, after the USA. On average each Australian consumes 27 kilograms of new clothing per year and disposes an average 23 kilograms of clothing to landfill each year, or 93 per cent of the textile waste we generate. That is equivalent to an estimated 6000 kilos of textiles and clothing dumped in landfill every 10 minutes. The average lifespan for a fast fashion clothing item is just 3 years.

In the Australia’s National Waste report 2018-19, a total of more than 800,000 tonnes of leather, rubber and textiles were discarded with a recycling rate of just 7 per cent. Shockingly, these statistics do not even consider that a massive 75% of textile waste is diverted from landfills and reused by charitable organisations in Australia. 50,000 tonnes per year of Australia’s clothing waste is exported overseas primarily to countries with developing economies.  The scale of the problem is huge, but understanding the issues and then looking at what can be done to reduce textile waste is vitally important.


Environmental Issues

  • Water Usage - textile mills generate one-fifth of the world's industrial water pollution.
  • Energy Consumption.
  • Toxic Chemicals 20,000+ chemicals, many of them carcinogenic are used in the production of textiles.
  • Green House Gas Emissions If textiles are disposed of in landfill they contribute to methane gas production. Methane is a greenhouse gas & is 30x stronger than carbon dioxide.
  • Synthetic Materials 60 per cent of all clothing is made from synthetic materials including polyester, acrylic and nylon textiles, which are all derived from plastic made from non-renewable resources. It takes 30 – 40 years for nylon fabric to biodegrade vs natural cotton which breaks down in in just 1 – 5 months. Some man-made textiles can take hundreds or even a thousand plus years to break down.




Synthetic Materials

Social & Economic Issues

  • Labour Rights Abuse The textile industry is notorious for its exploitation of cheap labour in developing countries, which contributes to poverty and social injustice. For example, the minimum wage for a textile worker in Australia for a 40 working week is $25 per hour. In Bangladesh, the average daily wage for a textile worker (80% female workforce) is .80c per hour. Many work 11-12 hours per day 6 days per week in unsafe workplaces.
Social and Economic

    Individuals can take several steps to reduce their textile waste. Here are some suggestions:

    Buy Quality over Quantity: Investing in high-quality clothes that are durable and made to last can help reduce textile waste. This means looking for well-made items that are not likely to fall apart after just a few wears. Explore the minimalist capsule wardrobe movement for ideas on reducing the amount of clothing you own. quality vs quantity
    Natural Fibres Choose Natural Fibre Materials: Choose cotton, wool and other natural compostable fabrics that will break down quickly and not be toxic to the environment at the end of its useful life.
    Choose Ethically Certified Brands: Do your research and check out whether your favourite brands pay Fairtrade wages and can provide details of their full supply chain. If not let them know this is important to you. As a consumer we have power in our choices. Garment Factory
    Buy Second-hand: Shopping for clothes at op shops, consignment shops, and online marketplaces can help reduce the demand for new clothing and keep used clothing out of landfills. Donate or Sell Clothes: Instead of throwing away clothes that are still in good condition, donate them to charity or sell them online. Donate usable clothing and textile goods to Charities. Remember the guideline if you wouldn’t gift it to a friend or family member don’t send it to the op shop otherwise you are just passing on your waste for someone else to deal with at their expense.
    Care for & Repair Clothes: Repairing clothes that have minor tears or holes can help extend their life and reduce the need for new clothes. Get on the visible mending trend. Normalize wearing clothes more frequently. Clothing does not need to be washed after every wear and will last longer if not washed frequently. Clothing can be spot cleaned, aired and even put in the freezer to destroy odor causing bacteria. Darning Sock
    Reuse Meme Reuse/Repurpose Textile find creative ways to reuse and repurpose textiles i.e. turn old towels and sheets into cleaning/wash cloths etc
    Avoid Fast Fashion: Fast fashion brands produce low-quality, cheap clothes that are designed to be worn only a few times. Many fast fashion brands now have up to 12 seasons per year and intentionally produce more product than they can sell. Fast Fashion Mess
    Recycle Textiles As a last option for there are some textile recycling options such as:

      Macpac and Patagonia both have trade-in programs for their own pre-loved clothing, where customers can return their worn-out or damaged clothing for store credit.

      After offers a (paid) home collection service for your used and unwearable clothing, which is then recycled by their textile recycling partners primarily in India.


      Upparel offer a (paid) collection service.


      Retailer Sheridan accepts any brand of pre-loved sheets and towels for recycling. Visit your local Sheridan Boutique, Studio or Outlet store.

      Frank the Dog on our Upcycled Pet BedAs a business, Here and There Makers aims to reduce textile waste by creating useful products from second-hand textiles and choosing natural fibres wherever possible especially if purchasing new fabric (Michelle does still have a little bit of a fabric addiction she is trying hard to overcome). We repurpose even our smallest scraps by using them as stuffing (mixed with second-hand polyfil) in our pet beds.

      We also have a passion for educating young and old in sewing skills with a focus on utilising upcycled materials. We prioritise buying from makers that have ethical credentials and/or are repurposing waste textiles such as Second Chance Bangkok that make fabulous bags and more with second-hand jeans and other clothing.

       Second Chance Second Chance at HTM


      As individuals we can rethink the value we put on our clothing and other textiles and make choices that speak to our environmental and social values. Fashion is one way we communicate who we are to the world. As we use our choices to communicate to those around us that we care about people and the planet, we may lead others to question the status quo and bring us closer to a tipping point of awareness that brings sustainable change to our world. Importantly, we also need to accept that reducing our textile waste is a journey and we may not achieve quick perfection but we certainly need deliberate intention.

      Thanks for reading.

      Michelle Gates


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