New sustainable project creates opportunities for disability employment
According to the Australian Department of Environment, more than 650,000 tonnes of textile and commercial waste went into landfill between 2016 and 2017. Among this waste are thousands of clothing and textile fabrics, which are increasing carbon emissions, creating pollution and sending micro plastics into our waterways, soil, sea life, and food.
But the team at Sydney’s Circular Centre didn’t just see this as a problem, they saw it as an opportunity to create significant benefits for the environment, local employment and industry, right here in Australia.
The zero waste company uses a circular method of recycling by diverting clothing and commercial textile waste from landfill. New repurposed products, including carpet underlays, filters, acoustic wall panelling, punching bags, and much more, are then created from shredded recycled fabrics.
“Currently we are the only company in Australia processing our recycled textile waste locally,” explains Circular Centre’s Director, Alison Jose. “We’re doing this by creating local jobs and not making the waste someone else’s problem overseas or adding more carbon into the atmosphere through shipping.”
Recently, after receiving a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the first trial approval from Mosman City Council, Alison and her team began a pilot called the ‘Circular Textile Waste Service’. Soon after, the team joined forces with Achieve Australia’s social enterprise, AchievAble Enterprises as part of their mission to stay local and support communities.
As part of the pilot project, which began in October, supported employees at AchievAble Enterprises were involved in a five week training program, to learn all about recycling and repurposing textiles. The group then worked for three weeks to sort, catalogue and dismantle items of clothing and textiles for repurposing.
Glenyss Summers is a supported employee at AchievAble and she says she liked the variety of doing something different, while learning new skills. “It was fun and a little bit different from other jobs that I usually do,” says Glenyss. “I learnt about different fabrics and how to read and understand the labels on our clothes to sort them into different types.”
Circular Centre are passionate about providing local employment opportunities for people with disability, and it’s an area close to Alison’s heart. “My sister is blind and she works for a disability enterprise in Orange, so I know first-hand the impact that having a job has on people with disability,” says Alison. “My sister gets to take home a wage, she has co-workers who understand her challenges in life, and she gets to take part in more social activities. She absolutely loves it!”
For the team and AchievAble, there were many benefits to being involved in the pilot project. “Everyone enjoyed the social interaction and the opportunity to learn new skills. The experience helped us understand how we can all contribute to a more sustainable environment,” says Operations Manager at AchievAble Enterprises, Leanne Larche. “The team also had the chance to improve their fine motor skills through different tasks such as dismantling buttons, zippers and hooks from clothing.”
Following a successful pilot with Achieve Australia, the team at the Circular Centre are continuing to innovate and develop more community and business based partnerships across the country. We look forward to sharing more stories from this project, and the people we support who are involved, in upcoming editions of Enable Magazine.
For more information, visit circularcentre.com.au