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New Australian report calls for tax on fast fashion – Ragtrader

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Australians buy more clothes per person than any other country and spend far less on average per item of clothing, according to new research from the Australia Institute.

The analysis shows Australia has surpassed the United States as the world’s biggest consumer of textiles per capita, at an average 56 items per clothing compared to 53 in the US, with co-authors Nina Gbor and Olivia Chollet calling on the Federal Government to introduce new policy and taxes to curb fast fashion and regulate the industry.

When it comes to spending on average per item of clothing, the average value per item purchased by Australians is $13 – less than the United Kingdom ($40), United States ($24), Japan ($30) and Brazil ($16).

Gbor, who is also the circular economy and waste program director at the Australia Institute, said Australia’s addiction to clothes, shoes and bags is harming the country’s health and the environment.

“We need to drastically reduce waste at the source by penalising brands mass-producing incredibly cheap and poor quality clothing that is often worn just a handful of times or never sells and goes straight to the tip,” Gbor said.

The co-author then commended the soon-to-be operational national clothing product stewardship scheme called Seamless, calling it a good start. The Seamless scheme proposes a 4 cent per garment levy to fund domestic recycling initiatives and cut clothing waste. But Gbor said the levy is too low to change brand behaviour. 

“It should be increased drastically to at least 50 cents per item,” she said. “This, coupled with measures like a fast fashion tax, is needed to put the industry on notice.

“We’re walking around in plastic clothes made from petroleum. Many of these items end up in landfill or are dumped in countries in the Global South, where they fill up their landfills, pollute beaches and oceans and contribute to more emissions.

“Shein and Temu are expected to make more than $2 billion in sales this year combined. The Federal Government could redirect some of their profits to cut clothing waste and fund a domestic recycling and a circular textiles industry.”

Several other recommendations were listed at the end of the new report, including the introduction of a tax on fast fashion – similar to the legislation tabled in France – as well as increased supply chain transparency – similar to New York state’s Fashion and Social Accountability Act (Fashion Act), which will require footwear and apparel retailers to map and monitor particular environmental metrics.

The authors are also calling for the establishment of labelling standards for textiles, subsidies on textile repairs and banning the export of textile waste from Australia.

Australia Institute polling research, also listed in the report, found that nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of people are concerned or very concerned about the environmental impact of textile waste.

Meanwhile, 71 per cent thought business should be responsible for eliminating it, followed by consumers (57 per cent) and the government (54 per cent).

Fewer than half (46 per cent) could identify petroleum as the source of polyester, while just 27 per cent knew that more than half of clothes sold in Australia were made from plastic. 

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