New Product Stewardship Scheme for Clothing to Address Fashion Textile Waste

Aug 16, 2023

The Seamless scheme aims to tackle Australia’s 200,000 tonnes of clothing waste by making brands responsible for the whole of life of the garments they produce.

BY TAMANNA WADHWANI 

The Australian Fashion Council recently launched the National Clothing Product Stewardship Scheme Seamless, a critical step towards improving the design, recovery and recycling of clothing in Australia and transitioning to a circular fashion economy by 2030.

As outlined in the Seamless Scheme Design Summary report, the average Australian purchases 56 items of clothing every year. Along with the lack of reprocessing infrastructure and systematic collection systems, this results in over 200,000 tonnes of clothing entering Australian landfills annually.

Spearheaded by some of the industry’s most progressive and innovative brands, the Seamless scheme aims to highlight the responsibility of brands who place their garments on the market, from design right through to recycling or its sustainable disposal.

The funding for this program will be a financial contribution made by the steward (business who either owns a brand or has an executive relationship with a brand) of 4c for every new piece of their clothing placed in the market.

This funding will be directed towards four priority areas identified by the Australian Fashion Council, including:

  • Incentivising businesses to design more durable, repairable, sustainable and recyclable clothes.
  • Growing the market for new business models based on repair, reuse, remanufacturing and rental.
  • Establishing sorting and collection systems for effective reuse of wearable items and recycling of non-wearables.
  • Empowering citizens to make the right choices in acquiring, reusing, caring and disposal of clothes.

The launch of Seamless was welcomed by the Hon Tanya Plibersek, Minister for the Environment and Water, who noted Australians are buying more clothes than ever.

“We’re wearing those clothes for less time than we used to, and we’re sending more clothing to landfill than we ever have, which means that clothing is now a significant part of Australia’s waste problem,” said Plibersek.

“If the voluntary scheme is not viable – if we don’t believe it’s sufficient, or if it’s not raising enough money to cover its costs – then I will regulate,’ said Plibersek in a clear directive to clothing retailers on the uptake of the scheme.

Seamless was developed after 18 months of collaborative work in consortium with organisations including Charitable Recycling Australia, Queensland University of Technology, Sustainable Resource Use and WRAP Asia Pacific.

Retail brands including David Jones, BIG W, Lorna Jane, Rip Curl, R.M. Williams and THE ICONIC have already joined as foundation members. Each brand, along with the NSW Environment Protection Authority, will contribute $100,000 for a 12-month transition phase to support the set-up of Seamless.

Gayle Burchell, Chief Commercial and Sustainability Officer of THE ICONIC expressed great hopes of making genuine and lasting change to inspire a global shift through this scheme.

“We cannot act alone in our journey towards sustainability. It requires the full force of the combined skills, knowledge and agendas that each of the Founding Members and the Australian Government bring to the table. We’re humbled and excited to be part of this movement, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds,” said Burchell.

Learn more about Australia’s clothing stewardship scheme by visiting Seamless.

Learn more about other existing product stewardship schemes across Australia by visiting Recycling Near You.

If you want to be at the forefront of design to recovery Book your ticket to Circularity, 20-21 November at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne.

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