Pillar 3: Planet

Theme: Circular economy

Develop the circular economy for Australian cotton.

In 2028, the cotton industry can participate in the circular economy, providing lasting end-of-life solutions for cotton textiles.

There is increasing momentum for consumers, fashion and textile businesses and industries to play their role in a circular economy. The change comes from the need to cut carbon emissions, do more with less, decrease waste and pollution, and enhance biodiversity. For many people, a circular economy is the way of the future.

Cotton sits naturally in a circular economy. It is a natural, biodegradable, renewable, and recyclable fibre that can be returned to the earth. It also breaks down quickly in water and soil. The Australian cotton industry is already investing in and working with partners and brands on end-of-life processing solutions for textiles on cotton farms by turning textile waste into compost.

Cotton can also be recycled and reused through the deconstruction of waste textiles and re-spinning of the fibres. There is a need to explore how all cotton-based products can be reused and repurposed as many times as possible before they reach their product end-of-life and can be returned to the soil.

To capitalise on circularity's social, economic, and environmental opportunities, the industry must accelerate this action. Making the Circular economy theme a core activity in Clever Cotton is evidence of the cotton industry's commitment to this exciting research area.

This theme aims to support the cotton industry's participation in the circular economy, with an initial focus on providing lasting end-of-life solutions for cotton-rich textiles. The ultimate ambition is to work towards developing a circular economy for Australian cotton.

The theme will develop a viable business plan for returning textile waste to cotton farms. Collaborating with partners will help close the loop on cotton waste back to the cotton farm.

To understand the benefits of providing end-of-life solutions to cotton textile waste, this theme seeks to identify and quantify the GHG emissions from textile degradation in landfill and the many forms of waste processing options. It will look at creating a pathway for the composting and agricultural use of pure cotton textile waste. To create value across cotton-growing regions, it will also evaluate the potential to process this waste in cotton communities.

Via this theme, CRDC will also scope opportunities to add value to the cotton circular economy. Australian cotton has significant potential to contribute positively and constructively to the circular economy. This theme will help the industry take a leading role in understanding and seizing those opportunities.


  • By 2028, the cotton waste loop is closed through collaboration with partners
  • By 2028, logistic and economic opportunities to add value to the cotton circular economy are identified, quantified, and implemented where appropriate.