Fast Fashion and the Ecosystem

Since clothing so rapidly becomes unfashionable and “not wearable”, people end up with a lot of unwanted clothing. Instead of recycling their unwanted garments, it is not unusual for people to throw them away in the trash. In fact, a survey given to 100 West Chester students found that 16% of those surveyed admitted to having thrown out clothes in the trash.  People seem to find that it is simply easier to throw that once worn t-shirt from last season into the trashcan than it is to take it to a donation center. (In Britain) On average, about “65 pounds of clothing and textiles a year” are improperly discarded, and “only an eighth of that goes to charities for reuse[1]."

What's the Problem?

Above, waste products from a clothing factory spill into a pond(3)
     The wasted clothing ends up hanging out in landfills where it stays and pollutes the ground and water. Fast fashion clothes are manufactured using synthetic, inorganic materials. The production of this clothing is a large source of deadly carbon emissions[1]. It uses chemical and energy demanding processes which require large amounts of oil and produce nasty byproducts which get into the water[2]. The figures of the Technical Textile Markets report that "in the fashion industry, the demand for man-made fibers has doubled in the last 25 years[3]." Since this clothing is made from synthetic materials, they do not degrade and will forever stay in the ecosystem[3]. Harmful and toxic dyes are also used in the manufacture of fast fashion clothes which can wash off with rain and find their way into other water sources[3].
     The shipping and transport of fast fashion frill is energy demanding, time consuming, and pollution spewing. The quick rate at which retailers restock their inventory with completely new items means that the amount of transport for the clothing is great. Items come in by truck, ship, airplane, or a combination of methods, each burning up precious fossil fuels and emitting harmful toxins into the atmosphere.
1. "'Fast Clothes' Versus 'Green Clothes'" By Elisabeth Rosenthal. An article from The New York Times.
2. "Clothes Swaps and the Problem with Fast Fashion." An article from Ezines.
3. Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry. From Environmental Health Perspective, Volume 115, Number 9.