In 2021, Sustainability Victoria announced Textiles as its focus area for the subsequent two years. With a fashion and textile industry that generates over $8.2 billion and accounts for over 147,000 jobs, the Victorian industry is important to the economy and the people who rely on it for their livelihoods. On the other side of the lifecycle, the average Victorian creates 28kg of textile waste each year and only 7% of textile waste is recycled. (CEBIC, 2022)
Even less quantified is how much material sits dormant, un-landfilled, but not fulfilling its potential as valuable feedstock for new products that otherwise rely on the creation of new materials.
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, textiles, clothing and footwear currently account for over 20% of global freshwater use and are estimated to contribute to around 10% of global green house gas emissions. With such a heavy environmental footprint, it's time to create solutions to reduce overproduction while stimulating creativity and innovation towards circular solutions.
At Circular Sourcing, we believe that unused pre-consumer textiles is a hidden waste crisis. While Victoria has this small, yet thriving textile and garment industry - it also conceals potentially ten million kilograms of quality surplus textiles and trims that lay dormant in warehouses, destined to sit unused, while increasing demand on virgin materials and "newness" compounds the issue. It's been my experience (hello, Courtney here) that many businesses and individuals have a desire to purchase and work with surplus materials. After all it's very in vogue to dole out street cred to brands working with "deadstock".
Allow me to make one thing clear, the industry's over use of the term "deadstock" is something I truly hate. Like, who killed this material? As Clare Press put it so eloquently in one of her recent newsletters, quote:
"Granted, if we rebranded “deadstock” as “available fabric” it might not get the clicks. I can’t imagine anyone waxing lyrical about Billie Eilish’s Gucci Met Gala gown being made from available fabric, can you? But then we might get on with the more important business of talking about what really makes a collection, or a garment, more sustainable."
For me, the use of this word is purely to cut through. So you may notice me weaving both "surplus" and, more reluctantly, "deadstock" terminology throughout my communications. Please forgive, and know how I really feel about it.
So back to deadstock. I'm not talking about importing a bunch of materials that mills over produced and continue to over produce due to demand. I'm talking about excess materials that currently sit dormant and unused, despite high value and quality, in any location from a designer's cutting room to a mill's sampling warehouse. Right now there’s no simple and local way for these materials to be discovered or accessed by people who might like them most. Namely, small businesses who need smaller quantities anyway, or small scale/home sewists. Even medium sized fashion brands working in limited editions or larger ones dabbling in deadstock collections or supporting creative arms of their business like upcycling and remanufacturing that could benefit from a marketplace like this.
We don't see this as solely a waste issue, but an economic one too. With unrealised material value, businesses forgo potential revenue streams and are risk-averse when it comes to innovation and circularity progress.
So this is why we pitched to the Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre to build the digital infrastructure required to connect oversupply with demand via an innovative B2C/B2B marketplace. And we were successful! We've received funding (along with matched co-contributions) to make this a reality. So who exactly is we? A.BCH + Circular Sourcing founder Courtney Holm will be collaborating with the following organisations in order to deliver this project by October 2023:
– Stephen Morris-Moody of MTK Australia
– Meriel Chamberlin or Full Circle Fibres
– Thea Speechley of Raw Assembly
– Dewi Cooke of The Social Studio
We were also greatly supported by Peter Allan of Sustainable Resource Use and received wonderful letters of support from not only him but also from Julie Boulten and Aleasha McCallion of Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Alice Payne from Queensland University of Technology and The Australian Fashion Council.
Our goal is that here businesses of any size can on-sell surplus materials to people who want to utilise them, de-risking sustainable innovation, forging pathways for textile reuse while growing a state-wide collaborative model that’s scalable and replicable.
We already have proof of concept and our aim is to now connect highly relevant research on local surplus waste to our strategy while designing and building the marketplace to pilot with key industry stakeholders and customers.
So, my question to you is this. Could you be one of our first user testers, early adopters or stakeholders? We want to hear from you! Sign up via this form and we'll be in touch with more details in the coming weeks and months.
All my best,
Founder A.BCH + Circular Sourcing