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West Australians embrace clothing swaps, clothing rentals and recycling amid concerns over fast fashion

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In a world of mass-produced fast fashion, Western Australians are increasingly turning to new initiatives to give their clothes a second life.

With each Australian throwing away more than 20kg of textile waste a year, some individuals, councils and businesses in Western Australia are trying to reduce the amount of clothing sent to local landfills.

Among the initiatives taking off in WA are trading clothes through community clothing swaps, renting outfits rather than buying them, and recycling or redesigning old clothes.

WA style adviser Ciara Lowe-Thiedeman said the second-hand economy was booming.

“The number of people interested in these kinds of initiatives, second-hand, to figure out how to get the best clothes at the best price and how to keep things flowing and how to make money from your bad decisions as well is hugely on the rise,” she said.

A woman in a green dress sorts a suitcase of clothes
Councils and communities organize clothing exchanges to reduce textile waste.(ABC News: Jacqueline Lynch)

“Teenagers and young people hire much more often because hiring is also much more affordable.

“A lot of people are doing it, it’s becoming commonplace and I applaud it.”

Ms Lowe-Thiedeman said she was happy to see people moving towards more eco-friendly fashion choices at a time when many were still embracing mass-produced, low-cost clothing known as fast-fashion.

“I think slowly but surely we are becoming more aware. [But] we don’t wake up fast enough,” she said.

“We have this rise of small industries, you know, your clothing exchanges, your thrift stores and your opshops because they make money off people’s excesses or bad mistakes.”

WA tips lend a hand

The Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council, which manages the waste of several councils in Perth, has started organizing community clothing swaps in a bid to prevent textiles from ending up in landfills and recycling bins.

Vintage clothes on a shelf.
Community clothing exchanges are becoming increasingly popular.(ABC News: Kerrin Thomas)

Waste education coordinator Isabelle Marie said it was about getting more people interested in reusing clothes and breaking the stigma of second-hand clothes.

“People always proudly tell us when they’re wearing something from the swap,” Ms. Marie said.

She said the exchanges were becoming increasingly popular.

“From the first trade, when we look at our numbers, we started to see them go up,” she said.

“More people know and more people attend.”

It’s “cool” to save and recycle

However, the rise in popularity of these new thrifty initiatives has not dampened footfall in local operating stores.

Good Sammy general manager Kane Blackman said the stores were full of people buying clothes for themselves and even reworking them for a profit.

“It’s very cool to save money right now,” he said.

“We see around 30,000 West Australians entering our stores every week.

“People come in and see opportunities in certain clothes, to make a little change, to make something new out of it, we see a huge demand for that.

A man in a blue jacket stands between two clothes racks
Good Sammy CEO Kane Blackman says customers often bought clothes and turned them into something new.(ABC News: Ashleigh Davis)

“Some of them are recycling it and a number of people are selling these items online, so we’re creating side jobs for people across the state.”

Mr Blackman said people were becoming more and more socially aware of the impacts of textile waste.

Textile waste rotting in a landfill

Data from the Australian Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water showed that the average Australian buys 27kg of new clothes each year and throws around 23kg in landfill.

Dr Anne Farren, a researcher at the Curtin University School of Design, said it was “a massive amount” of textile waste to be dealt with locally.

“If we all produce this level of waste and just look at the situation in WA, we reach approximately 60 million tonnes of clothing waste produced in WA,” she said.

A woman in a green jacket in an opp store
Experts say people are becoming more aware of the environmental impacts of fast fashion.(ABC News: Ashleigh Davis)

Dr Farren said anything that could be done to stop textile waste going to landfill was fantastic.

“Unfortunately, a lot of textile waste does not decompose. Synthetic materials often contain a plastic component and they take forever to decompose,” she said.

“It’s as bad and similar as a plastic.”

Sources

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2/ https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-08-14/clothes-swaps-hiring-upcycling-concern-fast-fashion/101329562

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