Everyday Enviro with Elise: fashion stewardship making strides in Australia

Everyday Enviro with Elise: fashion stewardship making strides in Australia

By Elise Catterall  August 30th, 2023

This week, Elise takes a look at Seamless, a new stewardship initiative from the Australian Fashion Council aiming to create a circular fashion industry for Australia.


Stewardship programmes are a critical element of managing commercial and consumer waste. They exist in a wide range of industries, including technology, automotive, and home furnishings, and that range is continually broadening.

Recently the Australian Fashion Council has added to the range of stewardship programmes by leading a consortium to create Seamless, a scheme that aims to make the Australian fashion industry genuinely circular.

This is an important undertaking when you consider the significant contribution to waste and pollution the fashion industry makes. Australia is the second largest consumer of textiles per capita and our fashion industry is responsible for 200,000 tonnes of clothing waste going to landfill each year. This waste is influenced by several factors, including fast fashion trends, the use of non-sustainable materials, and the lack of infrastructure for recycling clothing.

While consumers have demonstrated a change in purchasing behaviours, as demonstrated by the surge in resale and thrifting of fashion, a stewardship program turns the focus away from the consumer and turns it back on to the manufacturer. Essentially, a stewardship program is a system that assigns responsibility for the environmental impacts of a product to the producer. In the case of clothing, a stewardship program would require clothing brands to take responsibility for the collection, recycling, and disposal of their products at the end of their life.

The Seamless Clothing Stewardship Scheme aims to transform how clothing is made, used, reused, and recycled in Australia to create clothing circularity by 2030. They are starting with a 4c/ per garment levy to create programmes that will incentivise clothing design that is more durable and recyclable, that will foster new circular business models, that will close the material loop & that will expand clothing collection, sorting and recycling.

The founding members of the scheme include some pretty big names in the Australian fashion industry (Big W, David Jones, Lorna Jane, Rip Curl, R.M. Williams, and THE ICONIC) but that is just the beginning - they aim to get 60% of the Australian industry involved so they can hit their target of diverting 120,000 tonnes of clothing from landfill by 2027.

The scheme summarises its goals by describing what it hopes for in the wardrobe of the future:

  • Rented garments for short term needs

  • Garments that are more durable and from renewable resources

  • Garments that are made with recycled content

  • More items that are purchased second hand

  • More items that are made to order

  • Garments that repaired to extend their lifespan

  • Garments that are cared for to extend their lifespan

  • Items that are passed down through families

  • Items that are passed along within friend groups and communities

  • Garments that are donated or resold when no longer needed.

  • Items that are repurposed or recycled when no longer unwearable.

This is not an unachievable wardrobe, and I would guess many people already possess a wardrobe like this. What we don’t have, and what Seamless will work towards, is government and industry support to help make this type of wardrobe the norm.

Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


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Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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