Circular Economy, Clothing, Features, Reuse

The case for reuse instead of recycling

The word ‘recycling’ has been synonymous with ‘sustainability’ for decades but recycling is only what should happen when a product reaches the end of its useable life. A webinar is being held to discuss the issue of reuse.


Recycling is better than landfill, and its important, but it’s the second last thing we should do according to the Waste Hierarchy. Nothing should be recycled unless it’s been reused first because charitable reuse is better for our environment, our society and our economy – and is second only to reducing consumption for environmental benefits.

And now we have the data to prove what the Waste Hierarchy has known for decades – that the most effective interventions are higher order ones, like reuse and repair and reducing overproduction.

Data shows that reusing creates 25x more jobs than recycling per tonne of material processed. Let’s socialise the power of reuse, and start prioritising higher order interventions.

The findings of Australia’s first study of reuse in NSW are insightful to help inform circular economy and higher order policy development.

Charitable Reuse Australia is hosting a national webinar for governments, councils, reuse organisations and circular economy stakeholders to unlock the insights from the study.

  • Date: Tuesday 16 July 2024
  • Time: 2pm-3pm (AEDT)
  • Webinar Link click here

The NSW Reuse Data Study launch event in Sydney attracted around 100 delegates, and the NSW EPA press conference and comms campaign generated media coverage to 5.3 million people across 260 outlets, including prime time TV news with all media trending positive or balanced – demonstrating the importance of this ground-breaking initiative.

This webinar will provide valuable insights for all Australian Governments, councils, charities, reuse organisations and circular economy advocates on the benefits and importance of recording and reporting this data, and how to leverage this information to accelerate initiatives with reusing instead of recycling.

The NSW Reuse Data Study shows that the commercial reuse collectors/exporters within Charitable Reuse Australia’s network have an exceptionally high standard of quality in relation to exports – with 95 per cent of clothing items exported getting used.

This is no surprise, because these companies first need to meet a stringent set of criteria in order to join our network as ‘Supporter Organisations’. They are then assessed through the Clothing Reuse Export Accreditation Scheme as responsible reuse exporters, partnering with the charity sector.

The NSW Reuse Data Study estimated that:

  • 76 per cent of clothing items exported were reused/resold;
  • 13 per cent of clothing items were downcycled to rags;
  • 6 per cent of clothing items were recycled; and
  • Only 5 per cent represented clothing waste.

While the figure is specific to NSW exports, and will need to be accredited for further assurances, this indicative resource recovery rate of 95 per cent provides Australian governments with the evidence-based confidence that the reusing clothing export trade led by Australian charities and their commercial export partners is a high quality, high impact trade with maximum environmental and social benefits, with minimal waste entering the resource stream.

The Clothing Reuse Export Accreditation Scheme is currently in its second phase of enhanced standards and once the current round of assessments in complete, will be able to report on an accredited national figure of the percentage of clothing items reused, ragged or recycled.

The scheme is ambitious, especially with plans for domestic site audits in 2024 and overseas site audits and Foreign End Market Verification in 2025, plus further downstream traceability and accountability of second-hand textiles, and enhanced verification of material outcomes in future years.

The Australian clothing reuse export trade also differs from its American and European counterparts, due to the more appropriate fabrics for overseas markets that share our warmer climate as well as the much smaller volumes being exported from Australia, that make sorting more effective and help to minimise the risk of waste inadvertently entering the supply chains.

Australia can be very proud of the quality of our clothing reuse exports, and the massive impact it has on our environment and our society, as well as the job creation and poverty alleviation it creates overseas. Reuse is an integral part of the Circular Economy and is second only to reducing consumption for environmental benefits – and the export trade enables this reuse

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