Home » Plibersek warns clothing industry must turn back on ‘fast fashion’, as she considers intervention

Plibersek warns clothing industry must turn back on ‘fast fashion’, as she considers intervention

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has warned the fashion industry must turn its back on fast fashion, as she considers whether to regulate the sector, including a possible levy on the sector.

Nearly all discarded clothing ends up in landfill, and clothing collection and repurposing of clothing is mainly run by charities, who are overwhelmed by donations. 

And the pace of that is speeding up, with Australians on average now purchasing 56 items of clothing each year, and more than 200,000 tonnes of clothing being sent to Australian landfills annually, according to the Australian Fashion Council.

The clothing industry is also the fourth-most polluting industry in the world, generating somewhere between 4 to 8 per cent of global emissions.

The minister is currently considering whether to intervene in the sector to improve its recycling and reuse efforts, which could include minimum design standards or mandating fashion brands contribute to a green fund for every piece of clothing they make or import and put to market.

Plibersek says she’s ‘part of the problem’, but fix can’t be left to customers

At an industry event this morning, Ms Plibersek said the global fashion industry had fallen short of expectations.

Improved affordability of clothes is a good thing. Parents shouldn’t have to choose between a new pair of school shoes and paying the electricity bill,” Ms Plibersek said.

“But environmental standards are still woeful. So woeful in fact that the fashion industry is responsible for 10 per cent of humanity’s carbon emissions  — more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined.

“Even shifting a small part of this churn of fast fashion — from factory to landfill — has the potential to have a positive impact on the planet.”

Australians are buying 56 clothing items each year, and throwing out thousands of tonnes of clothing.(ABC News: Ashleigh Davis)

Ms Plibersek admitted she was also part of the problem, sometimes buying clothes without asking if she really needed it, or without considering the “life cycle” of that clothing.

But she said the fashion industry could not rely on changing customer preferences alone to change consumption.

“If it’s the fashion industry that makes the profits, then it must be responsible for doing better by the environment,” she said.

“That’s why it’s so good to see parts of the fashion industry leading the way on adopting circularity.”

Fashion green scheme could save millions of clothes from landfill

In response to fast fashion trends, a government-funded consortium led by the Australian Fashion Council in June last year launched Seamless, which charts a course for the fashion industry to transition to a circular economy by 2030.

Under the scheme, members must pay a 4 cent contribution to the Seamless program for every piece of clothing they make or import, though footwear, single-use protective wear and accessories are excluded.