The rise of fast fashion is diminishing the level of wearable apparel for charities to sell, according to The Salvation Army CEO Matt Davis.

Speaking on a panel at the ‘Good For Business' Sustainable Fashion Summit last week, Davis said the rise in fast fashion is driving Australians to buy more than they need.

Meanwhile, the hand-me-down model used in families for clothing has declined.

“Since then, the proportion of product that we are able to resell locally has been declining,” Davis said. “And we would predict that that will continue to happen into the future.”

New market entrants in the re-commerce space have also segmented supply, according to David. 

“Every time there's a new platform that emerges to be able to facilitate peer-to-peer sales, or B2B sales - that effectively diminishes the quality of the supply into charities,” he said.

“If we're talking about circular business models, that's okay. There are reasons why we need to have those other models. But my hope into the future is Australians stop and think: When I don't need this item anymore, can I have both environmental and social good?”

Despite the challenging market shifts, Davis said the primary motivation for its consumers is sustainability, with only 5% making up those buying out of necessity.

“For all charities in Australia, we exist to be able to provide vital funds for the charities that were part of,” he said. “Without reuse, we don't get to have that amazing social change.

“We desperately need quality donations; we are not overwhelmed by quality, we are overwhelmed by what we call unwearables.

“If we were to all go to a landfill site right now and had a bit of a dig through the textile, I don't think we would find the Oroton summer strappy dress. We would find the Anko, size six grey tracksuit pants with holes in the knees.

“This is the crisis, this is the challenge for all of us. And we absolutely want to collaborate to try and find solutions that are not just domestically but globally, as well.”

Panel moderator, as well as founder of The Wardrobe Crisis, Clare Press then asked Davis how much of a problem exporting unsellable items offshore is for The Salvation Army.

Davis said it depends.

“There are absolutely rogue operators in Australia that if you're having these conversations in your own organisations, you need to ask a whole bunch of really, really good questions,” he said. “We have a very significant vetting process that we work through.

“Do we export product? Yes, we do. If we didn't, guess what would happen? It would go to local landfill.”

Davis said that exporting goods attracts a resource recovery rate of well over 80%.

“Is that a bad thing in the grand scheme of things? Well, yes, it is. Because you want to be able to recover the materials over and over and over again.

“The infrastructure does not exist globally, let alone domestically. We have to face into that reality. But it's very much on our minds as a problem to solve together.”

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