Here you are again ready to buy a pair of jumpers and boots at a discounted price. But although this purchase may be cheap for you, there are other costs that are invisible to you. So what do you need to know about the environmental costs of fast fashion?
Some types of fabric cause serious harm to the environment.
Chances are, most of your clothing is made from synthetic materials such as rayon, nylon, and polyester, which actually contain elements of plastic.
The problem is that when you wash these fabrics, their microfibers end up in the water system and then into rivers and oceans. According to research, they can be ingested by wild animals and even into the food we eat.
Jason Forrest, a sustainability expert at the British Academy of Fashion Retail, points out that even natural fibers can deplete the earth’s resources. Take denim made from cotton, for example: “It takes 20 liters of water to produce a pair of jeans,” says Forrest.
The cheaper the item, the less likely it is ethically produced.
Unfortunately, it often happens that some cheap things are produced by people in poor conditions, where they are paid less than the minimum wage. Such practices are especially common in countries such as Bangladesh and China. Even in the UK, there have been reports of people being paid illegally low sums to have clothes made, which are then sold in large stores.
Lara Bianchi, an academic at the University of Manchester Business School, notes that fashion has created many jobs in poor areas, which is a “positive factor” for local economies. “However, I think fast fashion has also had a huge impact on workers’ rights and women’s rights,” she adds.
According to Bianchi, the international supply chain is so complex and long that many multinational brands cannot inspect and control all of their products. “Some brands would do well to shorten their supply chains and take responsibility not only for themselves and their first-tier suppliers, but for the entire supply chain as a whole.”
If you do not dispose of clothing and packaging from it, they are sent to a landfill or incineration.
To appreciate the size of the fast fashion industry, think about it: Asos, the UK-based online clothing and cosmetics retailer, uses more than 59 million plastic postal bags and 5 million cardboard post boxes every year to ship online orders. While boxes are made from recycled materials, plastic bags make up only 25% of recycled materials.
What about worn clothes? Many of us just throw it away. According to UK charity Love Not Landfill, one third of people aged 16 to 24 have never had their clothes recycled before. To reduce environmental damage, consider recycling your used clothes or donating them to charities.
Deliveries contribute to air pollution.
How many times have you missed a delivery, forcing the driver to drive back to you the next day? Or did you order a giant batch of clothes only to decide they didn’t fit you?
Nearly two-thirds of shoppers who buy women’s clothing online return at least one item, according to the report. This culture of serial orders and returns adds up to many miles driven by cars.
First, the clothes are sent from the manufacturing plant to huge warehouses, then trucks deliver them to local warehouses, and then the clothes get to you through a courier driver. And all that fuel contributes to air pollution, which in turn is linked to poor public health. Think twice before ordering another item!