NZ Clothing Industry Co–Creating New Environmental Strategy

The clothing and textile industries are facing significant environmental challenges. Annual global clothing production is over 100 billion units, yet only a tiny fraction of these clothes are ever recycled. Meanwhile, textile waste is one of New Zealand’s fastest growing waste streams with more than 150,000 tonnes ending up in landfills each year, representing a gross waste of a high value resource. This is why industry players are coming together to improve how clothes are brought to market and managed at end-of-life by co-designing a Textile Product Stewardship Scheme.

The ​Textile Product Stewardship Project​ sits within the ​Textile Reuse Programme​ which was established in 2016. The project aligns industry players with a shared vision and commitment to a circular economy for clothing and textiles in New Zealand. It also drives large scale, collaborative projects creating new technologies and ​solutions​ to radically reduce the environmental impacts of what we wear.

The goal of the project is to establish an accredited voluntary textile product stewardship scheme, financing the costs of end-of-life textile management across New Zealand, and ensuring the maximum possible volume of textiles is diverted from landfill. The two year investigative and design project has been funded by The Ministry for the Environment’s Te Pūtea Whakamauru Para – Waste Minimisation Fund’s (WMF) 2019 funding round and the Textile Reuse Programme foundation partners, Alsco NZ, Barkers Clothing, Deane Apparel and Wellington City Council.

Business and Product Development Manager for Alsco New Zealand Gavin Smith is enthusiastic about the project, “​Alsco’s New Zealand textile rental operation needs to dispose of more than 200 tonnes of cottons and polycottons annually, this project enables us to do something positive about it by co-designing a system for the reuse of these valuable resources onshore in New Zealand.​ “

Market expectation is shifting as more and more people become aware of the impacts of the clothes they wear. Businesses are facing increasing ‘make it, take it’ demand, the expectation that customers can return garments at their end of use. 

“​There is a natural limit to what companies can achieve on their own – collaboration and inclusion is the most effective and efficient way to solve these challenges​” says Brian Johnston, Sustainability Specialist at sustainability consultancy The Formary.

Including the whole industry across the value chain in the co-design and pilot of a textile product stewardship scheme will ensure that it reflects and is effective in the NZ market, can demonstrate potential to reduce environmental impact, and add value for stakeholders.

Any organisation that produces, supplies or uses clothing or textiles and wants to make tangible positive impact can register their interest in the Product Stewardship Project on the Textile Reuse Programme​ ​website​.

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