Fast, cheap fashion has been on the rise since the early 2000s. It has not only changed the way we dress but also the way we think about clothes and what we do with them. Today, we buy more clothes than ever before, only to wear them a few times – or even not wear them at all! While fast fashion has made new, trendy clothes more affordable, it has damaging effects on the environment. Here are some facts about fast fashion that you may not know.
To keep up with changing fashion trends, an enormous amount of clothes is produced every year – 100 billion items to be precise. That’s almost 14 items for every human being on the planet. This results in a huge amount of textile waste. It is estimated that 85% of all textiles are thrown away every year, from clothes that lose their quality to clothes that go out of trend.
Every piece of clothing is made from some kind of fabric. Some clothes are made from natural fibres such as cotton or wool, which require an enormous amount of water to produce. For example, more than 20,000 litres of water are needed to harvest just one kilogram of cotton! Water is also used in other stages of clothing production, such as the dyeing of fabrics. It can take around 7,000 litres of water to produce one pair of denim jeans and 2,700 litres to produce a cotton shirt!
Around 60% of clothes are made with plastic-based materials such as polyester or nylon. When we wash these types of clothes, they release microplastics which eventually make their way into rivers and seas. Some experts estimate that every year, 500,000 tons of tiny plastic particles are released into the ocean from our washing machines — the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles!
What happens to clothes in landfills? 100% cotton clothing can break down as quickly as a week. However, clothes made of plastic-based materials do not break down easily. They may take up to 200 years to decompose! For this reason, it is important to keep them out of our landfills.
Have you ever wondered who makes your clothes? Fast fashion is made by factory workers in developing countries like China and India. Often, working conditions are poor – meaning that there are low wages, poor safety rules, and long working hours. Fast fashion companies prioritise making money over workers’ health and well-being.
Sometimes, fast fashion is all we can afford – and that’s fine! However, we should take care of our clothes to make sure that they last as long as possible. Where possible, we can mend and repair our clothes for minor wear and tear, instead of buying new clothes. When we grow out of our clothes, we can donate them instead of throwing them away. Many clothing stores today also have a recycling program that will take in your used clothes for recycling.
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