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RCYCL is a perfect fit for the planet

Got old clothes that are too threadbare to give to charity? Here's what to do.

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As fashion designers and doyens frock up and flock to the PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival, one Melbourne business is enabling us to change the way we use, reuse and recycle clothing.

What do you do with last season’s taffeta double-bow midi dress that’s not ever getting another outing due to a rip on the seam? Or that moth-eaten denim maxi skirt (you should never have bought in the first place) that’s been at the back of the wardrobe for a decade at least? Or the work shirts that are too thread-bare to give to charity?

If you can’t gift them or thrift them don’t bin them because there’s good news you can RCYCL them!

RCYCL is revolutionising the local fashion industry through its innovative clothing recycling program.

RCYCL provides a direct-to-consumer return satchel subscription service allowing people to easily recycle their used clothing at the end of its life cycle. 

RCYCL’s immediate impact on the environment and contribution to the circular economy was recognised with the Sustainability Award in the 2023 Melbourne Awards, the city’s highest accolade.

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Belinda Paul receiving the Melbourne Award for Sustainability from Lord Mayor Sally Capp
Belinda Paul receiving the Melbourne Award for Sustainability from Lord Mayor Sally Capp

After more than 25 years in the fashion industry and after coming face-to-face with the impact of climate change during the 2020 bushfires, founder Belinda Paul used the pandemic lockdowns productively to make a positive impact on the environment. 

“I love fashion. It has been my career for many years. I love the thrill of finding the next trend and seeing the latest designs,” Belinda said.

“But it had me thinking that fashion is a reflection of us as people, we all love fashion, and we are all consumers of fashion but what can we all do at an individual level to help the longevity of our cherished items?

“So I created RCYCL to allow people to be responsible consumers, to be responsible with their old clothes and to give them an alternative to throwing them in the bin. 

“I wanted to provide a solution for people who think that disposing of clothing is the only way to get rid of clothes that are unable to be upcycled or donated.”

To date, there are no systematic resources to collect unwearable clothing. So, some 200,000 tonnes of clothing are sent to landfill in Australia each year. Most are made from non-sustainable, non-durable materials. 

Belinda said consumers are simply not aware of the impact our passion for fashion is having on the environment.

“It has almost been something that nobody talks about. We all clean out our wardrobes, we all have a pile that is intended for the op shop, and we all, ultimately, have a pile that is intended for the bin,” she said. 

“Now we have the option to send those items back to RCYCL and make an immediate impact on the number of kilograms going to landfill.”

And while Belinda concedes “as humans we all love to consume” RCYCL’s message is to be a responsible consumer. 

“The textile waste problem in Australia is huge, we are the second highest country per capita to consume fashion after the United States. We therefore generate a massive amount of waste per person.

“The statistic from a recent reportOpens in new tab produced by the Australian Fashion Council states that for every person in Australia, 56 items of clothing are purchased every year, and nearly 15 kilograms of that is discarded. That is astounding!”

RCYCL is just one start-up working to help achieve the Australian Fashion Council’s goal of clothing circularity by 2030Opens in new tab

“This is not the solution in its entirety, but it is an option for the moment to help textile waste,” Belinda said. 

“This is a journey in line with the rest of the fashion and recycling industries and I look forward to what is to come.

“To create circularity and produce new items from waste is pretty remarkable. Ten years ago, it was uncommon to rent an item from a stranger’s wardrobe now it is almost normal. Right now, recycling your old clothes is a new concept. The urgency needs to be understood, and to make a small difference at a personal level is achievable.

“The RCYCL service is available, we simply have to access it, make it habitual and utilise it. It is the future of fashion because it needs to be.”

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Subscribe to RCYCL, receive your compostable satchel, fill it with old clothes and return it to be recycled
Subscribe to RCYCL, receive your compostable satchel, fill it with old clothes and return it to be recycled

To be part of the solution, purchase one of RCYCL’s fully compostable bagsOpens in new tab, fill it with your old clothes, and drop it off at your nearest Sendle locationOpens in new tab. Belinda and the RCYCL team will take it from there. 

The team works directly with a textile recycling partner to ensure all fibers can be processed and recycled, with nothing going to waste. 

The recycled textiles are then turned into new yarn and carpet underlay. 

Whether it’s a spring clean or a bulk wardrobe cleanout, visit RCYCLOpens in new tab to learn more about how you can save your unwanted clothes from going to landfill.

Did you know?

  • Each year 10,000 tonnes of clothing are manufactured in Australia.
  • A further 373,000 tonnes of clothing are manufactured outside of Australia and imported.
  • Add to that the 1.4m tonnes of clothing already in use, that equals more than 1.8m tonnes of clothing.

Applications for the Melbourne Awards open on 20 May 2024.

our acknowledgement

  • Torres Strait Islander Flag
  • Aboriginal People Flag

The City of Melbourne respectfully acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land we govern, the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung and Bunurong / Boon Wurrung peoples of the Kulin and pays respect to their Elders past and present. 

 

We acknowledge and honour the unbroken spiritual, cultural and political connection they have maintained to this unique place for more than 2000 generations.

We accept the invitation in the Uluru Statement from the Heart and are committed to walking together to build a better future.