Fast Fashion: How it Affects The Environment
Fast fashion is a type of clothing that is mass-produced in large quantities at a low cost. Websites such as Shein, Romwe, and AliExpress are all examples of the fast fashion industry. The popularization of these websites occurred around 2020 when everyone was in quarantine and in-person shopping was not an option. Thousands of individuals were purchasing cheaply made trendy clothing that would only be discarded later on because it was out of style, or made of poor quality material. This leads to negative impacts on the environment.
The fashion industry uses one-tenth of Earth’s water to run factories and clean products. One kilogram of cotton requires 10,000 litres of water or, in other words, about 3,000 litres of water makes one cotton shirt. On top of that, toxic chemicals are present in the textile dye, and these chemicals may end up in our oceans affecting sea life; this process is thought to be responsible for 20% of all wastewater produced worldwide — this adds up over time.
Furthermore, clothing made out of synthetic materials is one of the prime factors of plastic entering our oceans; it has been estimated that 35% of microplastics in the oceans are coming from synthetic materials. Since fast fashion is priced very low, its producers use low-quality materials for their apparel. Many fibres, for example, are made with polyester, which emits more carbon dioxide than cotton. As we know, plastic takes a long time to decompose in the ocean and once it breaks down, a toxic substance is released which can harmfully impact marine life. These plastic microfibers are impossible to remove as they can end up in our food chain which not only causes a harmful impact on ecosystems and animals (terrestrial and marine), but also on our health.
When fast fashion companies release their merchandise, the clothing produced is always trendy and cheap, which then draws more customers to their websites. Data based in 2019 shows that 62 million metric tonnes of clothing was globally consumed. In recent years, that amount has gone up in scale, causing more items to end up in landfills due to poor quality and the high demand for new clothes. A large part of our population tends to throw away instead of donating, which plays a part in large amounts of materials being wasted which may not be able to be recycled for other uses. These materials pile up in landfills and may be transferred over to be burnt. Public health is at risk — as well as environmental dangers — as large amounts of poisonous gases are released when trash in landfills are burnt.
The fast-fashion industry is responsible for more carbon emissions compared to airplanes and maritime shipping combined. If this industry continues this way, an increase of 50% in greenhouse gases can be expected within 10 years. One can help our environment by shopping locally, donating unwanted clothing, and upcycling their clothes.
By not supporting these fast fashion brands, you are making a huge impact on the environment for the better.