Textiles Private Members Motion Speech 2022

There are many challenges that we face as a society when it comes to waste management and reduction. From organic food waste to household plastic, from old and broken white goods to the carbon dioxide produced through energy production. 

Australians have the second highest consumption and disposal of textiles per capita in the world. As my motion notes, on average an Australian will acquire 27 kilograms of new clothing each year and each Australian will, on average, discard around 23 kilograms of clothing. This is second only to the United States.

Fast fashion has become a phenomenon which has led to clothing becoming so cheap that it is viewed as disposable by a majority of the population. You can buy extremely cheap items both in store and increasingly online. 1 in 3 of these items will be discarded and end up in a landfill within a short time of them being purchased.

Many, if not the majority of these fast fashion items contain elements of plastic fibre which very quickly degrade into microplastics, particularly if they are dumped in landfill. As members will know, microplastics are an ever more concerning phenomenon and are being found in all sorts of places in the ecosystem. From the bodies of salmon and tuna to in many cases, inside parts of our own body. They’re toxic and not healthy to be stored in the bodies of any creature.

Madam speaker, I think it is important to note the changes to the textile industry and particular impacts of the fast fashion movement on our environment. Consumer trends have changed, and fast fashion is supported by consumers - the ability to buy lots of cheap clothing is very appealing as a consumer. People buy clothes for a particular occasion or event, and then discard this clothing, thus becoming a single use item often discarded to landfill.

Fast fashion has perpetuated an overwhelming sense of carelessness for sustainability. This is having a devastating impact on our environment. The textiles industry one of the top five polluting industries in the world. It can take between 10,000 and 15,000 litres of water to manufacture just one pair of jeans.

The nature of fast fashion also means that the clothing items are created to a lower quality. Resulting in these items of clothing being discarded quickly, and consumers preferencing to replace the item rather than repairing it.

As noted by the Australian Fashion Council, in 2020-21, Australia’s fashion and textile industry contributed more than $27.1 billion to the national economy. Representing about 1.5% of our total economy. This just shows how significant Australia’s textile industry is, and as a government we should help work with the industry to implement better ways to reduce landfill waste.

We in the ACT have been particularly proactive over the years to reduce the production of our waste and to facilitate reusage where we can. For example we have invested and worked to reduce our electricity emissions to net zero, we have helped initiatives like keep cups to get off the ground and we have continued to support the much loved and effective facility in the Green Shed.

Keep Cups are a popular initiative across Canberra from their initial beginnings in the Gungahlin town centre in my electorate. It has been adopted by many cafes in the territory and you can frequently see people using the green keep cups in different town centres.

Another example of a way the government can and is reducing waste is the use of recycled material in the resurfacing and maintenance of roads across the ACT. These materials can vary from old car tyres to printer toner powder, recycled road surface, recycled road base, recycled concrete and fly ash from power generation interstate.

Additionally, the container deposit scheme introduced during the last term of government has been very successful in keeping recyclable drink containers out of landfill, waterways and gutters.

Madam speaker, I am always impressed with the ACT Government’s initiative to be better, do better and look after our environment. I commend my colleagues continued support to explore other ways we can reduce our waste going to landfill. This motion I present today is juts another example of the ACT leading the way and showing the other states and territories how it’s done.

The motion circulated in my name today calls on the ACT Government to further examine the scope of these waste reduction initiatives through the draft circular economy plan by including textiles in the plan. Currently, there is no specific plan at a state nor federal level to deal with textiles in this way.

I have spoken several times in this place about the Circular Economy. The circular economy turns to avoidance and reuse of items considered waste or excess rather than just recycling. This provides not only positive environmental impacts, but also opportunities for economic development and growth with new industries.

The three key principles of a circular economy are to design out waste pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems. These principles may seem like obvious ways to reduce waste. However, we know that our current business as usual model will not allow us to achieve these objectives. That is why it is imperative that governments and our communities look for new opportunities to build a circular economy.

As an example of this, the European Union is taking a particularly focused view of this mission and outcomes. In March of this year, they presented a package of the European Green Deal proposals to make sustainable products the norm in the EU. The goal is to do this while supporting circular business models as part of the green transition.

As part of this announcement, the European Commission noted that European consumption of textiles has the fourth highest impact on the environment and climate change, after food, housing and mobility. It is also the third highest area of consumption for water and land use, and fifth highest for the use of primary raw materials.

Given that Australians acquire and discard more clothing per capita than any country in the European Union, it is not unreasonable to imagine that our textile consumption also has a significant and detrimental impact on the environment.  

Like in the European Union, one of the solutions to these waste issues is to incorporate textiles that have been discarded or are no longer required into a burgeoning circular economy.

Madam Speaker this transition to a more circular economy is not only environmentally beneficial, it’s also economically and socially beneficial.

Re-using and recycling creates approximately 9.2 jobs per 10,000 tonnes of waste, compared with 2.8 jobs per 10,000 tonnes of waste sent to landfill. These are jobs that should be invested in and, realistically, will become the jobs of the very near future, as part of a cleaner and more sustainable economy.

One of the pioneers of the circular economy for textiles, who I have previously spoken about in this assembly while discussing these issues is Kelli Donovan. Kelli is the CEO, creative director and founder of Pure Pod, a sustainable fashion label that provides people with high quality, sustainably sourced and produced clothing. Pure Pod is a great example of a small business that is providing consumers with an alternative to fast fashion.

It is this type of small business which we have the potential to help get going on their plans to repurpose textiles with appropriate government support through including textiles in the draft circular economy plan.

Madam speaker, I mentioned before that the average Australian discards around 23 kilograms of clothing to landfill a year. I acknowledge that many of us in the chamber will find this hard to believe, as we may personally not contribute this. However, many Australians do and can easily reduce this by ensuring their discarded clothing is repurposed or given a new home.

This motion and the subsequent planning and actions will help to create positive change for the textile industry and help to establish new ways for Canberrans to contribute to a circular economy. The ability to participate in clothes swaps, donate their textiles for refurbishing, or even the ability to recycle their textiles that cannot be re-used or re-purposed, will benefit our environment immensely.

Lastly madam speaker, I also want to touch on the positive economic aspect of my motion. As part of my motion the ACT Government has the ability to create new local jobs for Canberrans. The ACT Government can explore how best to encourage and implement a circular economy with the textile industry being a focus.

I find it very exciting when thinking about the positive impact these changes will have on Canberra. Our environment will benefit greatly. Our local textile Canberra businesses will be better supported, and in the conversations I have had there is support for such planning and action. Finally, we have the opportunity to better support our economy and provide more local jobs.

We might even all benefit from this on a personal level, by having even more sustainable choices when buying our clothes. We could have more ability to make a conscious decision to buy second-hand or upcycled clothing from a local Canberra manufacturer.

I commend my motion to the assembly.