The Fashion Industry's Waste Problem And What You Can Do
Many of us have stepped into the vibrant color scheme of Forever21 and the sultry vibes of H&M in search for more clothes, more than what we need. We stock up on basic tees, trendy shoes that are in season, and big, chunky sweaters in an attempt to rock the seasons hottest trends. Most of us are concerned with price, and, hey, a deal is a deal and the cheaper the better. But have you ever felt that itch, that concern that the deal you just scored could have a detrimental cost? Just like we waste food, we can also waste clothes.
So how bad is the waste in fashion?
Let me break it down for you:
- Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned.
- An estimated $500 billion value is lost every year due to clothing that's barely worn and rarely recycled.
- Less than one percent of the material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing.
- Worldwide, clothing utilization—the average number of times a garment is worn before it ceases to be used—has decreased by 36% compared to 15 years ago.
- Clothes release half a million tonnes of microfibers into the ocean every year, equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles.
- On top of that, the fashion industry alone releases greenhouse emissions of 1.2 billion tonnes a year.
Not only that, some vibrant fabrics, colors, and prints are made from toxic chemicals. Textile dying is one of the leading sources of pollution in our water. Polyester fabric is the number one fabric used in clothing, yet the more that is produced and washed, the more plastic that gets dumped into our oceans. Crazy, right? You wonder how fast fashion companies can have new arrivals every week–it’s because they never stop working and never stop wasting.
Some fashion brands believe that staying ahead is the only way to sustain a business in the fashion industry. Regardless, the effects that these fast fashion companies are having on our environment do not put us ahead; instead, they contribute to the major issues our planet is already facing.
How to be a positive force for change
Well, it’s pretty simple. Some of these companies, such as H&M and Zara have donation boxes in their stores where you can bring unwanted clothes and recycle them and you can score 15% off your next purchase.
Need an outfit for your next costume party? Hit up Goodwill or your local thrift store and recreate a look for less. Balling on a budget? Recreate something you already own or borrow something from your friends. Apps like Curtsey and companies like ThreadUP make it easy for you to buy secondhand clothes at very inexpensive price points and you can sell your pieces out as well and earn some extra cash.
You don’t have to stop purchasing from these companies if you don’t want to. Fast fashion companies are not the only ones polluting the environment. What matters is their approach to lessening the problem. I would recommend looking up what your clothing is made out of online. One thing I love about Outdoor Voices, for example, is that 86% of polyester in their clothing comes from recycled polyester fabrics. Not only that, but their shorts are also made from recycled water bottles. Together, we can combat the waste problem in the fashion industry, one garment at a time.
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