Australia overtakes US as top textile consumer: Research


  • Australians purchase more clothing per person than any other country, overtaking the US, with 56 items annually, driving a fast fashion waste crisis.
  • Research shows Australians buy low-cost items, leading to over 200,000 tonnes of clothing in landfill yearly.
  • Policies suggested include a fast fashion tax and federal investment in circular textiles.

Australians purchase more clothing per person than any other country, driving a fast fashion waste crisis, according to new research from the Australia Institute. The study reveals that Australia has overtaken the US as the world’s largest consumer of textiles per capita, with much of this consumption attributed to fast fashion that ends up in landfill.

Key findings from the research indicate that Australians buy an average of 56 new clothing items per year, surpassing the US at 53 items, the UK at 33 items, and China at 30 items. The average value per item purchased by Australians is AUD $13, significantly lower than the UK ($40), USA ($24), Japan ($30), or even Brazil ($16). Annually, more than 200,000 tonnes of clothing are discarded into landfill, equivalent to nearly four Sydney Harbour Bridges in weight, as per the Textile Waste in Australia report.

The report suggests several policy measures to curb fast fashion waste, including implementing a French-style fast fashion tax, banning the export of textile waste within five years, and providing government-funded discounts for garment repairs. Additionally, it calls for federal investment in developing an Australian circular textiles industry and increased support for community op shops and recycling initiatives.

The Australia Institute’s polling research indicates that nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of Australians are concerned or very concerned about the environmental impact of textile waste. When asked who should be responsible for eliminating this waste, 71 per cent pointed to businesses, followed by consumers at 57 per cent and the government at 54 per cent.

The research also highlights a gap in public knowledge regarding textile materials. Fewer than half (46 per cent) of respondents could identify petroleum as the source of polyester, and only 27 per cent were aware that more than half of the clothes sold in Australia are made from plastic.