The ANFF-Vic hub at Deakin University is providing the tools and expertise to convert old clothes into new fashion and substantially reduce the waste produced by this industry.
Through modern consumption patterns, society discards an ever-increasing amount of material waste. In particular, the textile industry is a significant consumer of fresh water, pesticides and land.
Fast fashion has exacerbated the negative impact of textile production. These cheap, stylish, mass-produced garments appeal to shoppers because they are affordable and trendy. However, these products aren’t built to last and almost immediately go out of style. As a result, these clothes are quickly discarded, piling up in landfills. In fact, 85% of all textiles go to dumps every year, and the average Australian discards 27 kg of textile waste each year to landfill.
Such behaviour is ultimately unsustainable, and the need to institute a more Circular Economy in the textile industry is becoming an ever-increasing priority. A circular economy system reduces material use, redesigns materials to be less resource intensive, and recovers and regenerates valuable materials from waste as a resource for manufacturing new materials.
In response to increasing demand for solutions to these challenges from industry, government, and society at large, the Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) and Deakin University have instituted a new research priority around Circular Economy with textiles as a key focus. To facilitate this demand, with the support of ANFF, IFM has launched the ARC Research Hub for Future Fibres, expanding its facilities for innovative development in textile production.
A case study for the potential of this facility is a partnership with Australian biomaterials company Nanollose, whose aim is to develop sustainable textiles, replacing current use of unsustainable wood pulp with bacterial cellulose produced via the fermentation of wastes and by-products from the food and agricultural industries. Its 100% Tree-Free Nullarbor™ lyocell fibre was made at Nanollose’s partner’s R&D facilities in India and spun into yarn using standard industrial yarn-making equipment at the ARC Research Hub for Future Fibres. The resulting Nullarbor™ yarn spun at IFM was provided to Victorian knit innovation studio, Knovus, to construct a 3D knitted garment from the yarn with zero fabric waste. This collaboration demonstrated that innovative sustainable fibre production can work seamlessly with existing industrial equipment to produce amazing new fabrics.
Currently, ANFF and IFM are incorporating more capabilities to further develop the ARC Research Hub for Future Fibres. ANFF’s investment will provide more opportunities for those wanting to develop new fibres and turn them into fabric. The new capabilities will allow for more of the fibre processing to be done in one place and at scales that are more attractive to potential industry partners.
By working with the expertise at IFM and partners such as Nanollose and strategically acquiring tools that are fit for purpose from the industry point of view, ANFF can provide value to the onshore textile manufacturing industry and ensure that sovereign capabilities are not lost to Australia. In this way, Australia can become a leader in the conversion of a wasteful industry to one that is sustainable and circular.