The finalists of the 2024 eBay Circular Fashion Fund have been named, an initiative offering $200,000 in funding to three Australian start-ups specialising in circular fashion innovations. The winner will be awarded $100,000 and the runners-up $50,000 each to support their solutions. 

One of the finalists, Melbourne-based founder of RCYCL, Belinda Paul spoke to Retailbiz about how tragedy inspired her to create a direct-to-consumer satchel that positively impacts the environment. 

After being evacuated from her home during the summer bushfires in 2019/2020 and then hit by the pandemic, Belinda created RCYCL to help overcome the daunting thoughts of global warming and world pollution.

With 200,000 tonnes of clothing going to landfill each year, RCYCL provides a direct-to-consumer satchel that allows people to easily recycle used clothing. Clothing items are sent to a textile recycling partner to process at their partner, Indian Mill to make new yarn or carpet underlay.

“I’ve been in the retail fashion industry for about 25 years, and I feel privileged to be able to work in such a dynamic and fast-paced industry. When the bushfires hit in 2019/2020, I was on maternity leave and I was thrown into a space of reflection and pondered how I could tap into my industry skills to make an immediate impact on others,” Belinda told Retailbiz.

“I was feeling daunted and overwhelmed but knew I wanted to come out of the situation with a positive outcome. After the bushfires, I made it my mission and goal to work out a way to push forward and make an immediate impact on the environment, and RCYCL was born.

“I underestimated the impact it would have and the level of curiosity among the industry when it comes to textile waste. The curiosity has transformed into an educational piece, and I believe retailers and brands are looking at all options when it comes to integrating sustainability into their business.

“Having worked with big brands and large organisations in the past, I had no hesitation in putting a product out there in the marketplace, but I was excited by the response I immediately received.”

When asked about how the concept and awareness of sustainability has evolved over time, Belinda believes consumers are driving the change; they are looking to brands to not only justify production and manufacturing, but all elements of their business. “Consumers are so well informed these days and up to date with the latest news.”

Belinda admits that she isn’t a sustainability expert but has learnt a lot along the way and strives to make the information easy to understand and digest.

“RCYCL is a plug and play option; something that’s easily accessible. The customer needs that level of trust and wants to feel empowered to make a difference at an individual level,” she said.

“Initiatives like the Seamless Clothing Stewardship Scheme from the Australian Fashion Council has been phenomenal – a real statement to the industry. Changes don’t need to be overwhelming or hard; it can be anything from installing solar panels on your warehouse or transitioning to electric vehicles to updating packaging material.

“When businesses look at sustainability, they often ask ‘how do I start?’ I’m coming in to say start at the end by offering customers something they can see at the point of sale – something they can touch and feel. We want consumers to feel good that they’ve done something at an individual level, while championing and highlighting brands for making a difference.”

RCYCL founder, Belinda Paul (third from right) with other eBay Circular Fashion Fund winners.

eBay Circular Fashion Fund

Commenting on being announced as a finalist for the eBay Circular Fashion Fund, Belinda says she “couldn’t ask for anything more” than to be validated by an organisation like eBay alongside big players in the retail industry.

“I’m so proud to be recognised and to be considered,” she said.

“To be aligned with eBay and receive this recognition is credit in the industry and validation in the circular space. It has an immediate trust factor and anything to do with sustainability, or even recycling, trust has to come into the equation.

“I want to be inclusive of all industries and brands because we all have to step up and work together to make a difference. I’m excited about more brand partners coming on to create change and real impact and be able to look back on what we have been able to achieve together. It’s just a matter of having the right mindset and being open to what can happen at the other end.

“It doesn’t need to be hard or overwhelming. Let’s just make a start and make an immediate impact.”

RCYCL will present a live panel discussion ‘The Future of Fashion Using the Power of the Consumer’ at the PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival on Thursday 29 February at 4.30pm. The discussion will explore the hierarchy of fashion purchasing, raise awareness and foster responsibility by addressing each tier of the fashion industry. The conversation will focus on how consumers can contribute to shaping a more sustainable environment in our shopping habits, clothing choices and personal presentation.