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The Melbourne fashion company set to transform Australia’s textile recycling industry

Published August 17, 2020
In PeopleStyle

It’s no secret that Australia’s recycling industry is in a pretty wanting state.

Uplifting our capability right across the waste management spectrum – from collection to sorting, processing, recycling and repurposing – is absolutely mission critical to achieving the national targets Australia’s governments have set for the next 10 years. Some of these important targets will see a significant reduction in plastic in our ecosystem by 2025 (woohoo!) and a boosting of our ‘resource recovery rate’ (or the rate at which we collect ‘rubbish’ and turn it back into a resource for the production of other goods instead of it rotting away in landfill).

While there has been a huge focus on plastic waste over past decades (for good reason), and more recently governments are spotlighting the environmental issues posed by food waste, there is one seemingly innocuous but totally sinister waste stream that is only just beginning to garner the attention it needs: textiles. Your clothes, towels, sheets and blankets.

Options for eco-consciously disposing of your clothes, and textiles in general, are virtually non-existent in Australia.

Why is this a problem?

1. Synthetic materials like polyester, nylon and acrylic take ages to break down if left to rot in landfill (200+ years), and release the harmful greenhouse gas methane as they do

2. We chuck our clothes away like nobody’s business – about 30 percent of Australians throw away more than 10 items of clothing each year, and each person tosses about 7 kilograms of textiles more broadly in that same time. In 2016-17, the combined textile waste of households and the fashion industry equated to a total of 487,000 … and a whopping 406,000 tonnes of it ended up in landfill (Singer 2019).

Textiles are a complicated material to recycle because, like plastics, they come in many different types of materials and treatments, they require sorting, and then the technology needs to be able to reduce and separate the materials down into their fibres. Like anything that’s challenging, no one really wants to touch it.

So while the textile recycling industry overseas has been developing, in Australia we have… nudda.

A small but growing Melbourne fashion business is set to change all that.

When Founders Tina and Michael Elias launched the subscription service MANRAGS in 2016 it was to feed a personal addiction to fashionable socks.
Just four years on and Michael is positioned to become a major player in Australia’s textile recycling industry. Michael, Tina and the MANRAGS Team are building the tech capability to sort, recycle and repurpose textiles onshore into his business model, supported by a crowdfunded campaign that raised over $750,000 through more than 960 investors.

Michael said it was a sock drawer clean out that prompted some hefty reflecting with his wife and co-founder, Tina Elias, on their ‘purpose’.
“We started questioning what we were doing and why, what impact we were making and what happens to our product at the end of its life,” Michael told me. “We realised we had a problem. It’s no longer good enough to produce a good product; We have to take responsibility for the total lifecycle and avoid being contributors and enablers of textile landfill impact.”

The wild success of a digital textile collection service Manrags launched last year is evidence enough that consumers are ready to support the responsible disposal of their clothes if they have the convenient means. Thousands of people now book the service each week and it’s already diverted more than 70,000 kgs of textile from landfill. Kit Willow has agreed to take the non-reusable denim submitted to launch a recycled denim Kitx line as has social enterprise Homie.
“Recycling is happening offshore. The question is not just how can we do more recycling in Australia, but how do we commercialise it? We also need to think about repurpose first, recycling should be the last case scenario.”


Singer, Melissa. 2019. “Where Do Your Old Clothes Go When You Don’t Want Them Anymore?” The Sydney Morning Herald. October 19, 2019.

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