National study launched to better understand causes of Australian fashion waste

National study launched to better understand causes of Australian fashion waste

RMIT School of Fashion and Textiles and the Graduate School of Business and Law have partnered with Kmart and Target Australia to undertake a landmark nationwide study into consumer fashion disposal habits.

The study, supported by the Queensland Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, is designed to better inform responsive policy making and directly impact Australia’s fashion waste.

Despite textile waste offering a valuable circular resource, in Australia only seven per cent of discarded textiles are recycled.

Instead, an estimated 50 per cent of household clothing or textile waste is placed in the ‘red bin’.

This is believed to be one of the single biggest contributors of textile waste ending up in landfill.

With limited research in this space, the ‘Consumer Clothing Use & Disposal Behaviours’ study, led by Professor Alice Payne from the School of Fashion and Textiles, will aim to uncover whether this is an issue of consumer education, convenience and availability or additional factors that need to be addressed.

Minister for the Environment, the Great Barrier Reef, Science and Innovation, Leanne Linard, said the study aligned with the Queensland Government’s vision of a zero-waste society.

“This research provides an opportunity to inform and influence actions that continue our transition to a circular economy for textiles in Queensland,” Minister Linard said.

“Extending the lifespan of clothing and the materials they are made from means we can reduce environmental impacts and demand on natural resources, contributing to a more sustainable future.

“With 50 per cent of post-consumer textiles, including wearable clothing, finding their way into waste bins, our goal is to combat this waste of textile resources by better understanding consumer behaviour and attitudes to inform further support for extending the lifespan of clothing.”

Designed by a team of RMIT experts in sustainable fashion, consumer behaviour and marketing, the study will commence in May with an early release of a preliminary survey issued by both the Queensland Government and RMIT University.

The survey findings will then be incorporated and released in the second half of 2024.

“Understanding how people acquire, use and dispose of their clothing is key to developing the right initiatives to support sustainable change,” Payne said.

Kmart Group Managing Director Ian Bailey said textile waste needed to be tackled through collaboration and partnership across all stakeholders.

“We know people want to do the right thing when it comes to clothing they no longer need or use. This study will help provide answers for why discarded textiles end up in the bin, so we can work together on the right solutions that work for our customers,” Bailey said.

“With over 90 per cent of Australians shopping with Kmart and Target, leveraging our customer footprint to gather the essential insights to inform smart, practical solutions is the kind of direct action needed to get after this issue at pace and at scale.”

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About the study:

The RMIT ‘Consumer Clothing Use & Disposal Behaviours’ study examines the research question, ‘How do Australian consumers acquire, use and dispose of their clothing?’ by conducting a nationally representative survey of clothing acquisition, use, reuse, and disposal to provide specific insights into the Australian context across different regions.

A pilot survey and interviews with key stakeholders from across the clothing value chain will inform the development of the national survey.

The results will be vital to inform industry and policymakers for reducing textile waste, contributing to future sustainability and circularity.

Key outcomes include: the development of baseline data for how Australians use, care for, and dispose of their clothing; Intervention points for clothing circularity across stages of design, production, laundering, repair and disposal as well as Identification of citizen awareness and behaviour gaps.

This research was jointly initiated through a collaboration between RMIT University, the Kmart Group (Kmart and Target Australia) and the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Science. This research is funded by RMIT University and the Kmart Group. The cross-disciplinary research team from the School of Fashion and Textiles and the Graduate School of Business and Law includes Professor Alice Payne, Professor Simon Pervan, Professor Mark Leenders, Dr Carol Tan, Dr Tony Cooper, Dr Ninh Nguyen, and Ms Paige Street.


  • Research
  • Sustainability
  • fashion
  • DSC Research
  • CoBL
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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.