Camille Reed is the founder of the Australasian Circular Textile Association, a not-for-profit that advocates for more sustainability in the fashion and textile sector. She says about 30 percent of all online sales are returned in Australia.
"And of that 30 percent, a further 30 percent cannot be sold". That's part of the roughly 800,000 tonnes of textile waste generated in Australia annually, according to the latest numbers from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
When returns come in, they'll usually be manually assessed to make sure the product is in good condition, and fits the company's protocols for resale. "Maybe there's no capacity to actually have staff on the payroll to facilitate that," says Camille Reed. "There probably is a huge cost associated with holding [certain] labels and branding and remarketing, ensuring that it's all correct." If items can't be resold, they might be donated to charities, sold on to discount chains - or tossed altogether.
Associate Processor Payne says companies will ultimately be thinking about their bottom line, as well as the environmental impact. "For each particular retailer, they have to make a decision: which is the most cost effective pathway?" she says.
"And for some of them, it might be to partner with a charity or a textile recycler, to handle that waste." "Sometimes the easiest pathway, the path of least resistance, might be landfill or to overseas retail incineration as well."