Fashion Waste, Pollution and The Environment – With each second that passes by, a truck worth of fabric is piled into a landfill burned. The average dump truck is .76 cubic metres in diameter. A commercial dump truck holds 10-14 cubic yards of dirt. That means, every second you’re reading this article 7.6 to 10 cubic meters of fabric is being dumped/burned, contributing to the 1.2bn in greenhouse gas emissions the fashion industry releases each year during manufacturing.
Shocking, isn’t it? But the data released about the fashion industry doesn’t get much better upon further reading. Clothing contributes to half a million tonnes of microfibre pollution into the ocean, the equivalent to 50bn plastic bottles.
We’re all aware of the plastic ocean! You don’t have to search too far on social media before finding a post about plastic ocean pollution across the world, or the positive impact removing tourism for from Phi Phi island has had on the environment and wildlife in Thailand’s most popular beach for tourism. Well, the fashion industry is arguably just as harmful to our precious waters as plastic waste is.
Fashion isn’t not only impacting the ocean, either. This year, it was reported that Burberry burned £40m worth of merchandise in one of the biggest stories surrounding luxury fashion in 2018. The brand wanted to retain brand exclusivity while keeping stock scarcity high.
The problem with this is the negative impact this has had on the brand and environment. This has left Burberry reconsidering their garment waste management strategy.
Fashion Waste – Fast Fashion Impacting the Environment
Luxury fashion isn’t solely to blame for the industries impact on the environment. Of course, each sub-industry within fashion has its own impact on the environment, and Fast Fashion is one of them.
Due to social influencer marketing, the fashion industry has changed dramatically. Most importantly, they have created a new market. Social influencers recognised the power of social media and the impact it could have on the fashion industry.
This has left brands in a bit of a pickle, having to keep up with the latest influencer, their style, and how the brand can utilise them to grow their following. This is due to the customer (71% of them), is more likely to buy based on an online recommendation.
But diving deeper, has this style of marketing helped identify the customer need, or make brands lazy, relying on fast-turnaround products and pushing them out through influencers who can’t get enough of working with fashion retailers?
It’s not enough for customers now to shop by season, by shops or by influencers. Social media, self-confidence and insecurity have left the industry in a serious battle of supply and demand. With that comes higher impacts in production.
Fast Fashion goes beyond the season. No longer are there January or mid-season sales, but discounts based on influencer, key dates, affiliate marketing and more. You could say the industry has made fashion more agile. But realistically, it’s contributed to creating a monster that needs the latest item of clothing or accessory, and they needed it yesterday.
Fashion Waste – Fast Fashion Comes at a Price
Quenching the thirst comes at a price. The manufacturing process behind fast fashion is scary; with textile dyeing the second highest contributor to water pollution after agriculture.
Furthermore, fast-fashion contributes annually $500bn worth of waste due to underutilised clothing or no recycling. It’s incredible to think about the amount of impact this industry alone is having on the environment, all for the sake of ‘looking good’.
Animals are losing their homes and dying, the polar ice caps are melting, the O-zone layer is getting thinner and developing more holes, and we don’t feel any better mentally as the result of the latest trainers or new jacket we’ve acquired.
So how do we combat this? How do we, and manufacturers work towards improving the fashion industry’s impact on the environment?
Solving the Fashion Waste Problem – What to do Next?
Using Brands Who Are Actively Working to Improve the Environment.
As customers, we have a social responsibility to clean up our own act. If brands are making movements to improve their environmental impact, we have a moral obligation to do so too. This starts by using reputable brands that are sustainable.
Brands like Kuma Design, who use STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® certified sustainable vegan leather within all their products. Another brand who is totally worth mentioning is Ecoalf. The brand has transformed everything from discarded fishing nets, plastic bottles and grounded coffee into fashion garments.
An Emphasis on Recycling and Re-Using Materials for Fashion Purposes
Like Ecoalf, there are other brands out there who are heavily involved in recycling their waste and using this for their next range, or product line. Recode, Stella McCartney, Doodlage etc. are but a few who are taking the phrase ‘social responsibility’ and are acting on it.
These brands are using organic, less harmful products. They have innovated their manufacturing methods to reduce waste, toxicity and environmental impact in the process.
These are the brands that the big players should be drawing inspiration from. Just like the way these smaller brands draw style inspiration from the big brands who decide what’s in and what’s out.
Slowing Down Fast-Fashion
Fashion could do with slowing down. It’s great to have new styles weekly. It’s great to have start-up fashion brands for niche-industries turning around quick styles and product lines to satisfy our needs, but does this really outweigh the impact this is having on the environment?
We should go back to seasonal styles, limited product lines and emphasise the importance of recycling waste and using recyclable materials. The short-term impact this can have on the industry and environment is emphatic and is a consideration all who drive the fashion industry forward should be considering.
Recycling Your Own Clothes
Of course, there’s still more we as consumers can do. H&M have the initiative of a £5 voucher for every bag of unwanted/old clothes you bring in. Zara has introduced collection bins across Europe since 2016, and Nike has it’s ‘Reuse a Shoe’ programme.
These initiatives are there to reduce our fashion waste, provide clothing opportunities for third-world, poverty-stricken countries, and reduce environmental impact before it’s too late.
So, there are no excuses for us as consumers to not do our bit to help improve fashion’s waste problem. Ask yourself, if there are brands doing their bit, what’s your excuse?