Australians are keen shoppers when it comes to fashion. In terms of the average consumption per person, we come in second to only the United States of America (ouch!) By the numbers, individual Aussies buy an average of 27KG of clothing every year. That’s bad. But what’s worse is that we don’t just leave it in our wardrobes, give it to op shops or wear it over and over again. No, the vast majority of that (23KG worth) is sent straight to landfill, where it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions in its slow decay.

A couple of years ago, ABC presenter Craig Reucassel set up a mountain of clothing in Martin Place, Sydney for the textile waste episode of War on Waste. He asked passersby how often they think that clothing is sent to landfill in Australia. It was 6000KG of clothing. The answer was every. 10. minutes.

Organisations privy to this information – from the Australian government to local councils, charities and new private enterprises – are looking to solve this mammoth issue. There are movements to intercept waste and get more into op shops, and major textile recycling facilities popping up to take back these textiles and turn them into materials of value.

One such organisation is UPPAREL – an Australian subscription sock company turned innovative clothing recycler. UPPAREL is a consumer facing clothing recycler that collects unwanted, secondhand garments and sorts them into different value streams, including charitable donations, fabric recycling and fabric upcycling.

The garments that don’t make the cut for donations are processed and turned into products such as couch stuffing and various other items for Australian brands (they love a collab!) It’s a nifty way of saving textiles from landfill and creating a product with a smaller environmental impact by avoiding the need for virgin materials. UPPAREL says that for every 1kg of textiles you divert from landfill, you prevent 3-4kg of greenhouse gases from polluting the atmosphere.

How it works

I have to admit, when I heard the stat that Aussies throw 23KG of textiles in the bin each year, I found it hard to believe. That sounds like a lot. Also, I don’t see myself a huge consumer of textiles, so I assumed that my textile waste, would be a lot less. I was wrong.

It wasn’t until I started using UPPAREL to recycle our household textile waste did I realise that I, too, had a lot to pass on. Between the hats my partner brings home from work (merch 🤮), the stained clothing my baby churns through (often secondhand when we get it) and the clothes that no longer suit or fit me, we easillllly fill up a box or two each year.

I am at least happy to know that the garments are being repurposed and kept out of landfill by sending them to UPPAREL. The process goes a little something like this:

  1. Jump onto the website and choose the amount you want to recycle. I go with 1 box which covers up to 10KG. It’s $25 and you get a store credit to the same value.
  2. Once you check out you’ll get an email with your unique code and the details. Find any old box in your house that will fit about 10KG of clothing – a food delivery box, grocery box or moving box works perfectly.
  3. Send UPPAREL an email letting them know your box is packed ready to be collected. They’ll send back your mailing slip which you need to print and attach to your box.
  4. The delivery driver will collect your box at the allotted time.

That’s it!

Ready to give it a go yourself? Try it out here.