Kmart Group partners with Queensland department, RMIT to examine how to stem Australia’s textile waste problem

Adrian Lowe
The Nightly
2 Min Read
Kmart is examining how to pull down fashion and textile waste across its vast range.
Kmart is examining how to pull down fashion and textile waste across its vast range. Credit: Supplied

Retail giant Kmart Group is examining how it can better encourage clothing recycling as Australia grapples with a problem that threatens to choke the environment.

The Wesfarmers-owned retailer and stablemate Target is backing research to determine how to most effectively address a growing issue. Recent figures suggest just seven per cent of discarded textiles are recycled, and 50 per cent is thrown into the bin by consumers — one of the biggest reasons 210,000 tonnes of clothing and textiles end up in landfill each year.

Kmart and the Queensland Government’s environment department are teaming up to sponsor RMIT University school of fashion and textiles research to determine if the burgeoning waste problem is an issue of convenience and availability, consumer education or other factors. The Queensland Government will use the research to drive its waste recovery and recycling targets.

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Kmart Group chief executive Ian Bailey said more than 90 per cent of Australians shopped at Target or Kmart, so using its customer base to gather crucial insights would be particularly valuable.

“Consumers are always looking for how do I try to do the right thing, so that I can do the right thing for the planet,” he told The Nightly.

“Trying to figure out how we do this in the right way is really helpful.”

Mr Bailey said the failure of previous schemes in other sectors — such as the collapse of plastics recycling scheme Redcycle in supermarkets — was something Kmart was “very conscious of”.

“That’s why we want to take a very measured and thoughtful approach to this topic, so that when we do take actions, we know they’ve got a really positive outcome . . . (that) results in customers getting what they thought was going to happen,” he said.

The study will kick off this month with a preliminary survey, which will in turn feed into a broader strategy.

Mr Bailey said Kmart Group as a major fashion producer had a responsibility to “design with sustainability in mind”, particularly via the fabrics used given some were easier to recycle than others. Kmart, through its Anko house brand, uses 3D design and has direct line of sight to its factories, making work for a recyclable fabric easier than for peers.

The Queensland Government is also eyeing a circular economy for textiles, a movement that has gathered pace in recent years as it champions re-use and recycling of materials otherwise difficult to dispose of.

Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek earlier this year warned the fashion industry that Government would step in to force change if it would not address the problem.

The Government and the Australian Fashion Council have launched Seamless, an entity to reduce textile waste, which includes a 4 per cent levy on imported textiles that’s due to begin in July.

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