The fashion industry has avoided a colossal optics problem, but the fallout from holiday shopping may finally expose prominent fashion houses for their contribution to environmental degradation. The metrics of the dire environmental impacts of the fashion industry are frightening:
- More than 100 billion articles of clothing are produced each year – more than double the output of the fashion industry in 2000 — signaling a problematic increase in textile sourcing and processing.
- 92 million tons of textile waste is produced each year — the equivalent of a truckload of laundry thrown into a landfill every second.
- of The average American consumer buys 60 percent more clothes that at the end of the century, keeps them about half as longAND throw away 81.5 lbs. of clothes every year.
- The fashion industry is responsible for almost 10 percent of global carbon dioxide production – more than international flights and shipping combined.
- Raw material extraction, dyeing/finishing processes and fiber production contribute to global CO2 emissions AND over 20 percent of global water pollution.
- Globally, only 12 percent of clothing is recycled.
- READY 10 percent of the microplastics found in the ocean come from clothing textiles.
“Overconsumption Culture” and its successors: “Buy and Return Culture” and “Throwaway Culture” yield productive waste
The devastating facts speak for themselves, but in addition to being responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions, the exploitation of natural resources and the disposal of millions of garments in landfills every day, the fashion industry conveniently fosters a culture of overconsumption where ‘fast fashion’ (cheap, mass-produced items that follow short-term style fads) is in high demand. The overconsumption mindset fueled by social media is simply: If it’s out of style, it can’t be worn.
Due to society’s rampant buy-and-return subculture, clothing is increasingly returned to retailers, who largely do not stock, reuse, or repurpose the items, but simply discard unwanted fabrics, leaving such to be collected in landfills. Not to mention, the rise of “throwaway culture”, encouraged by the fast fashion trend – and a growing number of brands marketing disposable, affordable and knock-off clothing – many garments are only worn seven to ten times before they are thrown.
While some argue that fast fashion companies and consumers are too easily victimized by the environmental impacts of the overall global fashion industry, fast fashion’s mission of mass production has undoubtedly resulted in a dramatic increase in textile production, which in turn translates into in a dramatic increase. in pre- and post-production waste. For example, due to the large and varied number of patterns to fit the top in the production of clothing, an excessive amount of materials are wasted because they cannot be reused. The volume of production at today’s biggest fast fashion houses alone is staggering, with established brands estimated to produce 20,000 new styles each year.
Recently, fashion products are copied at significantly lower prices than the originals with brand names, created with love “deceive,” are being blamed for fueling the overconsumption mentality that has made clothing increasingly disposable. The latest “cheat” fashion trend is fueling the overconsumption mentality. Consumers are buying into the deceptive frenzy of social media, using direct links to fast fashion websites — a marketing ploy that flourished this holiday season. The 2022 holiday dupe season arguably exacerbated fashion losses: Shoppers bought clothes they intended to return while simultaneously discarding old clothes to make room for the latest trending duds. With the pandemic in the rearview mirror, according to market research, consumers were more likely to buy not only merchandise, but also holiday wear and travel wear. Retailers urged shoppers to buy, buy, buy in order to clear accumulated inventory due to unprecedented supply chain delays – much of which remains untouched and in the inevitable queue for disposal in the landfill.
Fast fashion boom → Increased CO2 emissions
Truth be told, apart from making the clothes, the very act of buying clothes – whether in person or online – results in alarming CO2 emissions. Today’s fast fashion houses are shipping garments around the world to meet consumer demands for “next day” delivery by rail, road, sea and air, leaving a visible carbon footprint. Add returns of ugly sweaters, ill-fitting joggers and not-so-duplicates deceivethe fallout from holiday shopping is estimated to create CO2 emissions equivalent to 3.5 million cars on the road for a year.
Synthetic fibers make recycling impractical and dump microplastics into waterways
The recent explosive growth in the use of synthetic fibers in industry has made the process of recycling textile waste increasingly difficult, if not impossible. While cotton and wood fiber textiles decompose quickly (a cotton shirt takes 6 months to decompose and a wool sock can break down in 5 years), synthetic fibers like Lycra and polyester take centuries to break down. Sorting clothing by material to be recycled is labor intensive and requires a skilled workforce, not to mention the process of transforming mixed fabrics into reusable yarn requires the use of aggressive chemical solvents, which contributes to damage to further environmental. The fashion industry remains burdened with insufficient technology to recycle clothing effectively, efficiently and affordably. Thus, unfortunately, it becomes more convenient to throw unwanted clothes in the landfill. Today’s fashion is further environmentally problematic, because synthetic fibers that are sustainable, durable, versatile and inexpensive are a significant source of microplastic pollution. With each laundry cycle, research shows that clothes shed microfilaments that travel through wastewater systems and eventually end up in waterways, affecting ecosystems and drinking water.
Fashionista, don’t despair!
While the statistics of the fashion industry are truly frightening, there is a glimmer of hope. Increasingly, high-end and sustainable brands are offering trade-in programs where the consumer can return worn clothing in exchange for credit to purchase new clothing, creating a true circular fashion economy. Savvy consumers are taking the fashion industry’s environmental dilemma into their own hands. Second-hand buying, once reserved for charity, is now a booming industry, thanks, it is said, to “college culture”. With little time to land full-time jobs, college students consider thrifting a lucrative side hustle, with the added bonus of not contributing to the fast-fashion economy. But the savings aren’t just appealing to collegiate shoppers. Inflation has made all consumers increasingly bargain-hunting with re-selling said to grow nearly 15 percent in 2021. Ultimately, thrift could save the fashion industry’s reputation by shifting focus of consumers (intentionally or not) towards recycling and reusing textiles, and away from the mass production of fast fashion and hazardous waste.