By: Rachel Mangulabnan
Summary. Donating unwanted clothes seems like an eco-friendly, sustainable way to dispose of items we no longer want; it certainly feels better than just tossing them in the trash. The harsh reality is, an estimated 80% of unwanted clothing within the United States is not put back into circulation. In fact, not even 1% are actually made into new garments. Instead, millions of tons of clothing accumulate in such vast amounts that textile mountains are formed. If the garment does not make its way to one of these enormous dumping grounds, they are burned releasing toxic chemicals and pollution into the air. The communities surrounding dumping sites are then exposed to a multitude of health risks. Waterways are blocked, livestock may begin to graze on them, and the people who make a living rummaging through unstable textile mounds are at an extreme risk of physical injury. Often, we fail to conceptualize just how much waste fast fashion produces. We have the privilege to ignore this growing problem because discarded items get shipped and sold across the world, left to pile up in other people’s backyards rather than our own. So, what has caused this massive influx of textile waste? From ever fleeting trends, to poor construction and quality of garments, a multitude of factors push this cyclical rotation, out with the old and in with the new. The mixed material composition often used to construct these garments makes it extremely difficult to separate, reuse and repurpose. Reconstructing and re-dyeing them is costly and extremely resource intensive as well. Additionally, this clothing was just not made to last as the whole goal is to sell the new trend and then on to the next and the next to maximize profits. It is not just the end of a garment's life cycle that produces large quantities of waste either. Textile factories cause pollution and waste in the communities they are located in. In some instances, local water sources surrounding these factories have turned neon pink and purple colors from the dyes. Physically cutting fabrics leave an excess of scraps due to fast production being prioritized over waste reduction. Many of the countries where garments both begin and end their journey lack proper waste disposal infrastructure, increasing the harm done. Some major clothing brands have pledged to use a certain percentage of old textile materials in order to combat this ever growing issue. To no surprise, they often fall short as many of these companies are where fast fashion originated. What this does show is, with increased pressure from consumers by refusing to support the fast fashion industry (if one has the means to) companies have started to listen.
Why we should care? The fast fashion industry produces about 5% of total global emissions or over 1 billion tons of CO2 equivalent each year. If we don't stop it now, then their pollutants will continue to skyrocket as well.
The contents written are informative and give a more global perspective to the issue. However, what really stood out was the use of imagery and graphics as you scroll through the website. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and the amount displayed really helps to quantify the unfathomable truth of fast fashion waste. Talking about what is happening is one thing, but showing the reality of the people, animals, and land being affected compels us to care more. I appreciated how they talked about the impact it has on local economies because that can easily be overlooked. Overall the article gives a good gist of fast fashion waste production; if someone did not know anything they would finish with a very good, well-rounded understanding of what is going on.
Science in Action.
Dr. Pasty Perry is a Leader in Fashion Marketing and Academic Lead for International at Manchester Fashion Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University.
Dr. Perry has a PhD in CSR garment supply chains. To no surprise, much of her research surrounds the fashion industry's supply chain. With her research she has found the shift from fast fashion to slow fashion has to start at the start of the supply chain. She reiterates the fact that garments need to be made to last once again. This implies that they need to be made out of higher quality materials and without the trend cycles in mind, which directly relates back to fast fashion waste. In order to reduce waste we need to look at the whole picture and start at the beginning of the fabrics.