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The unsustainable impact of fast fashion

Every year, more than 100 billion garments are made and around $450 billion worth of textiles are thrown away around the world. With the emergence of fast fashion, that figure is set to rise in the coming years to unimaginable levels. In 2015, the production of clothing and textiles produced more total emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping put together. As a total, the textile industry contributes to about 5% of global emissions, but that could well rise with the growth of fast fashion and an increasing demand for cheap clothing.

As fast fashion grows at an incredibly rapid rate, many shops are looking at their business models and changing them to replicate the fast fashion model, especially technology advances and our world moves online, costs for brands to produce clothing reduce even further. Rather than sell clothes of a higher quality at a slightly higher price, brands will reduce the cost and quality of their clothing and encourage shoppers to buy more with them, thus generating an increasing amount of waste.

Clothing made from polyester, which is essentially plastic, takes up to 200 years to break down in landfill. While natural fibres like cotton or wool can biodegrade and compost, landfill is not the right conditions for composting those either. For example, wool leaks a type of ammonia when it becomes landfill. At the manufacturing end, pollution by factories has grown to be a major issue. Actually, dyes and chemicals used in the textile-dyeing process can also have very detrimental impacts on our health and on the environment. A lot of the fabric-dyeing processes take place in countries that have weak environmental regulations, allowing many to get away with contaminating local water sources – often leading to poor health of local residents.

This is another concern that manufacturers always overproduce. It means there is often excess stock which needs to be burned. To get economies of scale, and ensure they don't have out of stock situations, large manufacturers and brands tend to overproduce. Unlike the past, nowadays people always buy clothes that don’t last long and easily throw away. There will always be a demand which they will be more happy to supply and generate increasing profits. All this advancement, however, creates a huge amount of waste and is becoming incredibly disastrous for the environment.

For earth’s sake, we should reconsider our buying habits and the importance of each individual action in reducing the amount of clothing waste that is produced. When we need to buy new, try to buy quality, buy used clothes or rent clothes. It may not seem like much, but each action adds up.

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