Integrating Product Stewardship into the Clothing and Textile Industry: A New Zealand Case Study

  • Author / Creator
    Degenstein, Lauren M.
  • The clothing and textile industry has become one of the world’s greatest polluters as tremendous volumes of clothing are produced, used, and disposed of at alarming rates. The amount of resources, both renewable and non-renewable, required to continue at the current rate of consumption, along with high levels of textile waste, is unsustainable and must be promptly addressed. The industry must transition from its linear take-make-waste model towards a circular economy where textile products are kept in circulation and waste is minimized or eliminated.

    This transition requires a systems change, with all stakeholder perspectives within the clothing and textile industry considered when exploring effective solutions for textile waste. Product stewardship, a strategy where stakeholders take responsibility for the environmental impacts of products through design to the end-of-life stage, is one option to enable the circular economy. Product stewardship schemes are gaining traction within the clothing and textile industry, with many brands providing take-back services to reduce the waste and environmental impacts associated with their products. At a regional level, product stewardship schemes have been developed in France or are in the developmental stage as with the Usedfully - Textile Reuse Programme in New Zealand.

    In this research, a human ecological systems perspective and case study methodology were used to explore product stewardship for clothing and textiles in New Zealand. The aim of the study was to examine Usedfully’s product stewardship work at a regional level and to explore stakeholder drivers, barriers, and strategies for product stewardship participation. Qualitative data was gathered using interview and survey methods to gain an understanding of stakeholder perspectives on addressing the environmental impacts of clothing and textiles through product stewardship. Stakeholders included those working to develop the product stewardship scheme as well as New Zealand based designers, manufacturers, and retailers who are current or potential future members of the Usedfully - Textile Reuse Programme. Interviews with 12 participants and survey data from 13 respondents were qualitatively analyzed for emerging themes. Additional information was collected from publicly available documents including company reports and government documents to provide context for product stewardship in New Zealand and to corroborate the interview and survey findings.

    Study findings indicate that Usedfully is developing a product stewardship scheme through a step-by-step, co-design process with relevant stakeholders. The study outlines this process within the broader New Zealand context and provides insights into stakeholder drivers and barriers for product stewardship engagement. The results also identify stakeholders’ current environmental practices that align with product stewardship strategies as well as the factors that enable product stewardship and the transition to circularity. Key findings suggest that product stewardship operating within the current linear system can only go so far; changes must occur at every stage of the value chain with all stakeholders making efforts towards circularity. Furthermore, the results highlight the importance of contextual factors and capacities for tailoring regional product stewardship schemes to local needs. The study also provides insights into the impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic on participants’ sustainability efforts and potential consequences for product stewardship.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.