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Sustainability a matter of constant reimagining for Salvos Stores

Salvos Stores are designing new methods and partnerships to sustainably handle a rapidly increasing volume of clothing made from synthetic, poor-quality fabrics.



A practice of extensive reuse, refurbishment and recycling of products in Salvos Stores puts the organisation in a very strong position environmentally, a senior leader in sustainability says.

This World Environment Day, Salvos Stores are looking ahead to a future with an increasing need for conscientious material stewardship and decision-making as the effects of climate change, unethical manufacturing practices, and overproduction wreak havoc on vulnerable corners of the world.

Salvos Stores’ sustainability staff strive toward a circular economy, where unsold goods are sustainably repurposed rather than excess products being sent to landfills.

Salvos Stores Manager for Environment and Sustainability Martin Nordstrom said this year’s World Environment Day marked a point of reflection for the organisation.

“It needs to be [about] thinking on the successes that we have already accomplished and the work that we already do across our environmental objectives and social objectives,” he said. “But also, how can we objectively work through and see the challenges that we have.”

Martin said one of the largest challenges facing Salvos Stores was an exponential increase in global fibre production, particularly of synthetic, petroleum-based fabrics such as polyester.

“There’s an increase in the volume and a decrease in the quality of clothing,” he said. “That’s a real challenge when we’re not producing [these products], we’re the recipients within this very large supply chain.”

Global yearly fibre production almost doubled from 2000 to 2021, from 58 million tonnes to 113 million, according to Textile Exchange. The advocacy group predicts that by 2030, production will have increased to 149 million tonnes.

Martin said while historically, clothing items delivered to second-hand stores were of high quality and standards of cleanliness and readiness for sale, Salvos Stores were now being inundated with low-quality, fast fashion items that were originally sold to customers cheaply, so were now of little value for resale.

 “It really brings into stark contrast why it’s so important for us to be promoting [waste] reduction, reuse, repair and refurbishment [of products].”

“It is a growing challenge for us to sell [these] products, which is why we diversify through mechanical and chemical recycling options for textiles and why we continue to look to the evolution of the industry in recycling,” he said.

However, Martin said recycling was a less effective way of reducing CO2 emissions than other methods.

“If I take one tonne of product received by Salvos Stores and I create reuse pathways – I sell it or gift it to someone who needs it – I’m able to avoid up to 30 tonnes CO2 emissions for every tonne [recycled],” he said. “It really brings into stark contrast why it’s so important for us to be promoting [waste] reduction, reuse, repair and refurbishment [of products].”

Martin said Salvos Stores’ sustainability staff were looking to partner with organisations with shared social and environmental objectives.

He said the organisation sought to continue partnering with companies to resell direct-to-consumer products that had either failed to sell or had minor flaws that made them unsuitable for sale. He added that the organisation was also working with Charitable Reuse Australia to help create a Clothing Export Accreditation Scheme to improve standards for textile export use and recovery internationally and with the Australian Fashion Council to contribute to the Seamless Product Stewardship Scheme.









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