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Pathways to Transition to a Circular Textile Economy in Australia

Textile and fashion industry on the path to change

A series of interviews with Australian fashion and textile sector industry experts has revealed that while many are employing sustainable business practices, a number of persistent challenges are preventing them from transitioning to a circular economy.


The interviews, conducted by researchers from the Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI) and BehaviourWorks Australia (BWA), sought to gain a better understanding of the drivers and barriers to change and identify opportunities to help the Australian textile industry adopt more sustainable practices.


The research team – which involved Jim Curtis (BWA), SDG expert Julie Boulton, and textile and fashion expert Aleasha McCallion – collaborated with the Australian Fashion Council on the project, interviewing large manufacturers, retail organisations and Small to Medium Enterprises.


They also partnered with the Resources and Recovery team at the Department of Environment, Water, Land and Planning (DEWLP) to secure other industry perspectives on successes, enablers, barriers and opportunities to transition to a circular textile economy in Australia.


What did we find?

The research revealed a number of barriers hindering an industry shift to a more circular mode of production.


“It is clear from our research that one of the key barriers is access to knowledge,” explained Aleasha.


“There is a lot of complexity around the issue and information is scattered and scarce. One option may be to develop a practical industry guide, but we’re not there yet.


”Additional barriers that were highlighted by industry include shifting consumer behaviour and supporting infrastructure and innovation across the sector.


“DEWLP is currently developing a circular economic policy for Victoria. It will identify fundamental longer-term improvements regarding how we use resources and manage waste. We hope that our research contributes to this policy,” said Aleasha.


Overwhelming, the team found a huge amount of interest and appetite for their work on this topic and they are now cementing/commencing a second phase of the research.


“We need to find ways of designing waste and pollution out of the supply chain and look for effective, behaviourally-driven ways to help manufacturers and consumers avoid, reduce, reuse and recycle materials – in other words, taking a circular economy approach.”

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“The project has huge potential and we will continue talking to, and engaging with, as many stakeholders as we can. Our vision is to scale it up and to collaboratively develop a plan for moving forward,” said Aleasha.


MSDI uses the Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for bringing researchers from different disciplines together to tackle these kinds of problems, with this project also involving researchers with expertise in water, energy, behaviour change, systems transformation, circular economy and Net Zero.


“BehaviourWorks is also running a large Waste and Circular Economy Collaboration with its government partners, so the projects will tie in together,” concluded Aleasha.


View a video on the topic with Aleasha and Julie below.