NSW council’s textile recycling trial gets the thumbs-up

A three-month trial at the Bathurst Regional Council to reduce clothing going into landfill has collected 1.6 tonnes of used textiles in just one month.

In what is believed to be a first for regional NSW, the council partnered with Textile Recyclers Australia (TRA) for the trial, with TRA supplying bins to be set up at the Bathurst Waste Management Centre.

The clothing, bedding, curtains, and other old textiles collected at the WMC is being reused as clothing in developing nations; cut up for rags and cleaning uses; or broken down into fibres through innovative recycling processes, for re-creation into entirely new fabrics for various uses.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, about 800,000 tonnes of textile, leather, and rubber waste was discarded in the 2018-19 financial year, with just 24 percent of the waste category being recovered rather than sent to landfill.

Bathurst Mayor Bobby Bourke told a local newspaper last month that he wants the scheme to become permanent.

“This trial has shown that people will use it if we provide it,” he said.

“Long-term, we need bigger and more bins to meet the demand. The worst thing you can do is throw it in the landfill, because it can be used overseas in countries that have clothing shortages.

“It’s unbelievable how much clothing is out there. We have a recycling thing for cans and bottles, but this is more of an environmental impact people don’t realise.”

The trial ends this month when it will be reviewed by both parties.

The 2019 National General Assembly (NGA) carried a motion from the Alice Springs Town Council that called on the federal government to develop a national approach to recycling textiles and clothing waste to minimise waste being sent to landfills.

Several Australian firms are working on technological solutions to waste textiles, with one company, Blocktexx, trying to develop a chemical process to separate components such as polyester and cellulose to be reused as high-value raw materials for use in other industries.

Blocktexx co-founder Adrian Jones said the company plans to build a new plant in Brisbane capable of processing 3800 tonnes a year, rising eventually to 10,000 tonnes annually.