Image of waste or fashion-related pollution?

Image of waste or fashion-related pollution? With a contribution of 2% to global GDP, the fashion sector is undoubtedly one of the most influential in the world (GDP). It has become a major polluter, second only to oil, which is a huge problem. So why is that? Rapidly changing fashion. To capitalize on current trends, fast fashion labels mass-produced, low-priced clothing that closely mimics the most recent runway looks.


Fast fashion refers to clothing that is both trendy and affordable, yet is produced quickly and in large quantities.

The term “rapid” is used to characterize the rate at which merchants can bring new trends from the runway to their shelves.

Low-cost apparel is a result of rising demand and the practice of shipping manufacturing jobs to developing nations (LMICs).

The global fashion business is worth $1.2 trillion each year as consumers spend $1.2 billion on each of the 80 billion new garments they buy each year.

The United States is the largest consumer of apparel and textiles in the world , yet most of these items are manufactured in China and Bangladesh.

Almost 3.8 billion pounds of clothes each year, or nearly 80 tons per American, are discarded in the garbage as solid waste.

Inexpensive garment manufacturing comes at a high price to people’s health across the world. Occupational safety and health have improved in the United States as a result of workplace tragedies like the Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, but this is not the case in low- and middle-income countries.

Dangerous working conditions that drew notice from regulators in the United States and the European Eu have not been abolished; rather, they have been relocated offshore.

As important as the economic contributions of the worldwide textile and apparel industry are, the social consequences cannot be ignored.

The social costs of producing fast fashion include harm to the environment, human health, and human rights at each stage of the production chain.

This harm is defined as “all direct and indirect losses sustained by third persons or the general public as a result of unrestrained economic activities.”


Globalization and the development of an international economy have led to the internationalization of supply chains, which has resulted in the relocation of fiber cultivation, textile production, and garment assembly to regions with lower labor costs.

How to Define “Fast Fashion”?

Fast fashion is a word used to describe clothing collections that get from the drawing board to the stores in a short amount of time.

Fast fashion retailers frequently offer new items multiple times weekly, in contrast to the seasonal collections introduced by more established fashion brands.

Fast-fashion designers frequently take their cues from the trends seen at fashion week gatherings or made famous by the celebrity culture.

Companies in the fast fashion industry follow the trends of the day to produce clothing quickly in huge volumes at low costs.

As a result, shoppers can easily find cheap options for apparel that promotes diversity and belonging. Forever 21, Gap, Zara, Urban Outfitters, Beautiful Little Thing, Boohoo, Style Nova, and Missguided are among the most popular fast fashion labels.

Accelerated turnaround times for clothing orders are made feasible by improvements in supply chain management.

Category management is an approach to improving supply chain efficiency via coordinated efforts between manufacturers and customer demand patterns.

Appealing to the newest trends, a quick brand’s pricing may be the major reason for its appeal among consumers.


The fashion industry couldn’t have become the economic engine that it is without the industrial revolution. In 2019, the fast-fashion industry was worth an estimated 36 billion dollars worldwide. To the tune of $43 billion in current US dollars, according to projections by industry analysts.

Fast fashion wrecks the environment:

How did you get those clothes? As fast fashion becomes more pervasive in the retail sector, this is a topic we’re increasingly being asked about.

Just what is this “quick fashion” that’s supposedly so bad for Mother Nature’s well-being? Also, what can be done to stop it from spreading?

Although it has only been around for a short period, the quick growth of fast fashion stores (9.7% growth between 2010 and 2015) is quite worrisome from a sustainability standpoint.

About 80 billion garments are produced annually for human use, 400% more than were produced 20 years ago.

The average UK consumer only uses 70% of what they have in their closet and tosses away 70 kg of textile waste yearly; this is even though the majority of Americans like shopping for clothes.

Unfortunately, Australia is no better, with 85% of its annual textile purchases being dumped in landfills instead of being put to use.

Australians buy an average of 27 kg of new fabrics per year, making them the world’s second-biggest textile consumers behind the United States.

We buy something, maybe wear it twice before becoming bored of it or realizing it’s no longer in style, and then throw it away, just to repeat the process with something else.

The apparel and textile business is significantly impacting the environment through its use of nonrenewable resources, vast greenhouse gas emissions, and excessive use of energy, chemicals, and water.

Fast fashion firms favor synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon, and acrylic, but these materials are effectively plastic created from petroleum and can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.

A 2011 research found that only one synthetic clothing may produce more than 1900 microscopic plastic fibers in just one washing machine cycle, illustrating the pervasive and hazardous effects of this material.

There is a societal cost to fast fashion as well. An Oxfam research from April 2016 estimates that 60 million people worldwide work in the garment sector to support the fast fashion industry. Of them, more than 15 million are located in Asia, with more than 80% being women.

And over 90% of Australia’s clothing imports come from Asia. However, there is still hope despite these sobering statistics.

Efforts by groups like Ethical Clothes Australia (ECA) and others, like Fashion Revolution, are helping help clean up the fashion business. This is true of both small and large fashion labels.

Importantly, as a conscientious consumer, you have several options for halting the spreading of fast fashion, as the smaller, the market for a product is, the less likely a company will produce it.

Fast-environmental fashion’s impact:

  1. Every second, enough garments to fill a garbage truck are either incinerated or deposited in landfills (UNEP, 2018)

  2. Plastic accounts for almost 60% of all materials used in the fashion industry (UNEP, 2019)

  3. Washing clothing generates microfibers equivalent to 500,000 tonnes annually, or 50 billion plastic bottles. According to a 2017 report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

  4. More carbon dioxide is produced by the fashion sector than by all airline routes and marine freight combined (UNEP, 2018). With the fashion industry’s current rate of growth, that percentage of the carbon budget might reach 26% by 2050. (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017)

  5. Each year, the fashion sector consumes over 93 billion cubic meters, which is enough to provide the requirements of five million people. This has a substantial impact on water shortages in some locations (UNCTAD, 2020)

  6. The fashion sector is responsible for around 20% of the world’s industrial wastewater pollution (WRI, 2017)

Rapid fashion:

Since the ‘60s, Americans’ purchases of new clothing have increased by a factor of three. The massive spread of fashion is reflected in the surge in garment production.

Now we have what’s known as “quick fashion” as a result of this. Fast fashion’s meteoric rise can be directly attributed to globalization.

In 2019, retail sales of clothing reached a record high of USD 1.9 trillion worldwide, and experts predict that by 2030, that figure will have doubled to USD three trillion.

As of the year 2022, worldwide retail sales had almost hit $27.3 trillion. Overproduction of garments, footwear, and other items and accessories is another aspect of the “fast fashion” phenomenon.

This exponential growth needs both more resources and a faster method of producing garments. The fast fashion industry is a major source of pollution because of consumers’ insatiable want for new garments.

These quick fashion goods are commonly purchased by consumers who, because of rising prices, cannot afford to buy name brands.

However, they don’t have that luxury anymore because inflation has raised the prices of even quick fashion.

The global population uses more than 80 billion garments annually, which adds to resource waste and energy pollution because most of these garments will eventually be discarded. Increased consumption is being met with a need for price reductions.

As a result, fast fashion has emerged to meet the needs of both consumers and businesses that manufacture low-priced goods.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, “fast fashion” is “an approach to designing, creation, and brand management of garments fashions that emphasizes making latest fashions quickly and cheaply accessible to clients.”

The idea is that rapid mass production plus low labor will keep clothing affordable for consumers, ensuring the continued economic success of fast fashion trends.

The amount of clothing that is thrown away due to rapid fashion is a major issue. The EPA estimates that in 2013 alone, 15.1 million tonnes of textile waste produced were produced.

When textile clothing was over up in landfills, the chemicals on the clothes, like the dye, can affect ecosystems by leaching the chemical compounds into the ground.[citation needed]

The wastage also makes a significant contribution to the issue of using many sites just to shop for waste and garbage. Burning unwanted garments releases carbon dioxide into the environment.

According to research by the World Resources Institute, the fast fashion sector is responsible for 1.2 billion tonnes of annual CO2 emissions.

In 2019, it was reported that France will be taking steps to stop businesses from burning unsold fashion products.


Microfibers from synthetic fabrics (polyester, nylon, etc.) are discharged into the water and eventually end up in the ocean any time we wash an article of artificial clothing.

Researchers have shown that these microfibers may be consumed by tiny aquatic species. Plastic enters the food chain when it is consumed by smaller fish, which are subsequently consumed by predatory larger fish.

Synthetic fabrics, according to new research, release plastic microfiber cloths into the air when worn.

One individual “may release about 300 million polyester micro particles annually to the environment via washing their clothing, and more than 900 million through the air just by wearing the items,” the study found.

Organic Fiber Make sure the materials you use are organic.
Sustainable Brand Pick Brands That Care About the Environment
Wash New Cloths Never put on freshly purchased threads without first washing them.
Avoid Chemical Content Keep an eye out for labels like OEKO-TEX®, GOTS, and BLUESIGN® that guarantee low chemical content in the fabric.

When it comes to the environment, what steps can the fashion industry do to make things better?


The manufacturing and shipping of even the most eco-friendly clothing still affect the environment.

The fact that we now buy 10 of everything whereas our grandmothers only bought 2 is part of the problem.

Humans have a common belief that acquiring a new wardrobe can boost their mood. Perhaps we need to rethink the very basics of our way of life.

Buy sustainable brands:

The social and environmental effects of their manufacturing processes are becoming increasingly important to the fashion industry.

The Companies We Like is where you’ll discover our recommendations for eco-friendly retailers. We won’t sugarcoat it:

selection is still restricted, and it’ll be easier and less expensive to stock up on clothes at the nearest mall. In the same way that it was difficult to acquire organic food 15 years ago, the more we want sustainable apparel, the more there will be. It’s now sold in most grocery stores.

Sure, sustainable apparel is going to cost you more than what you’d get at a quick fashion store, but at least we can see what’s driving those low pricing today.

Sustainable brands, however, won’t always cost more than name-brand items, for which we typically pay a premium for the label’s cachet but not necessarily the product’s quality or longevity.

Buy quality:

We care less about the quality since garments are so inexpensive. When clothes lose form or charm, we buy new ones.

We’ve all bought costly clothes or shoes that look outdated or have holes two months later. If we quit purchasing low-quality clothes, brands will improve. We can keep our clothing longer, which is beneficial for our budgets and the environment.


Don’t use regular bins. Most are made of synthetic, non-biodegradable material and will clog landfills. Alternatives:

  • Fix them. With ingenuity, an article of ripped clothing may be repaired or redesigned.
  • Donate your items to family, friends, or charity.
  • Sell on Vinted.
  • Some retailers buy back their own and other brands’ worn clothing.
  • Recycle them in the bin. Recycling textiles create new garments.

Buy, swap, and rent used clothing

Consider alternatives to buying new clothes.

  • Thrift stores aren’t new. Used-goods stores are ubiquitous. Many applications and websites sell inexpensively brand-name secondhand clothing.

Worldwide, people are swapping clothing. Participants trade old garments for new ones. This is a cheap and green method to replenish your clothing. Organize it with pals.

How to host a clothing swap. Clothes rental is another rising sector. This works well for clothes you won’t wear frequently (baby or pregnancy clothes, party dresses…). Some organizations charge a monthly fee to renew clients’ wardrobes.


Washing clothing is environmentally damaging. The average household performs 400 loads of laundry annually, using 60,000 gallons of water.

Heating the laundry water and running the dryer consumes a lot of electricity. Here are some strategies to reduce it.

Social Impact of Fast Fashion:

Before industrialization, we manufactured or commissioned our clothes. Buying clothing was a big deal before 1900.

When fashion houses launched their seasonal collections, people saved and made thoughtful purchases. Fashion is now available to anybody, anytime. Fast fashion allows you to buy new garments often.

If you wanted, you could buy new clothing every day for 2 years at a reasonable price. Fast fashion brings us convenience, and there’s nothing wrong with it.

Cheap apparel and high purchasing power encourage quick fashion. With social media encouraging weekly trends, we’ve become materialistic.

Being stylish implies purchasing extra to be on trend. Does a lavish lifestyle ensure happiness? Professor Tim Kasser thinks materialistic beliefs make individuals unhappy, sad, and nervous.

Second-hand longevity:

Donating garments to charity is a difficulty. Low-quality quick fashion clothing is one problem. The garments are readily ruined and rarely deserve a second home. Unwearable clothes can’t be donated to charity.

Even when garments are valued enough to give, they often wind up in landfills. Only 10% of donated apparel is repurposed.

When they can’t sell donated clothes locally, they send them to underdeveloped nations. This surplus of inexpensive apparel hurts these countries’ textile industries.

Like fast fashion elsewhere, imported goods wear out rapidly and wind up in landfills6. Poor waste management in these nations pollutes land and water.

Fast fashion causes waste and devalues clothes designers’ work and ingenuity. Gucci sued Forever 21 for using its trademark stripes in 2017.

What does our continued support of fast fashion firms, while knowing how badly employees are treated, say about us? Fashion Nova was featured in an NYT article.

The research revealed sweatshop abuses in Los Angeles. Inhumane techniques should make buyers reject the brand, but materialism trumps ethics.

Frequently Asked Questions ( FAQ ):

Here we discuss some questions frequently asked by people.

1. What effects does quick fashion have on the planet?

One illustration showing the environmental effects of quick fashion, with accompanying bullet points This behavior has serious consequences for the environment since the textile and apparel business consumes so much energy, chemicals, and water and emits so many greenhouse gases.

2. How quickly does fashion damage the planet?

The worldwide textile business is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the combined total of the shipping and airline industries. Every year, the fashion sector generates around 53 million metric tonnes of fiber, 70% of which is discarded or burned.

3. Just how does the prevalence of cheap, trendy clothing affect the culture at large?

The World Economic Council claims that while fast fashion lowers clothing prices, it does it at the expense of the environment. This means that the clothes are surviving longer, even though consumers are buying less of them. This leads to an increased frequency of disposal and, thus, an increase in waste generation.

4. As opposed to slow fashion, why does quick fashion cause problems?

The use of low-cost, hazardous textile dyes is one of the negative effects of fast fashion, and it helps to explain why the fashion industry is second only to agriculture as a global polluter of clean water.

5. Just how is the trend of quick-change clothing hurting the planet?

What kind of effects does that have on nature? According to a survey by IndiaSpend, the apparel sector annually produces over 53 million metric tonnes of fiber, of which almost 70 percent is lost. UK charity Ellen MacArthur Foundation predicts global fiber output will hit 160 million metric tonnes by 2050.

6. Why is quick fashion so prevalent?

Increases in production efficiency and delivery speeds, rising customer demand for trendy new items, and rising disposable income, especially among young people, all contributed to the rise of “fast fashion.”

7. To what extent can the fashion industry be made more eco-friendly?

If you no longer need your old clothes, consider giving them to a good cause or passing them on to a friend. Put them up for sale on resale websites and apps including Vinted. - Retailers of all stripes would gladly accept your gently-used items, whether they were purchased from them or not. - Throw them away in the fabric waste container.

8. Can fast fashion be considered a societal issue?

The present fast supermodel is a social and environmental injustice since it depends on exploiting garment and other sector employees to maintain cheap pricing and high consumption rates.

9. In what ways does quick fashion provide a problem?

Fast fashion has an impact on our environment through carbon emissions, in addition to the sheer volume of garbage in landfills. According to the Ellen Ford Foundation, the fashion business accounts for 10 percent of annual worldwide CO2 emissions.

10. In what ways do rivers suffer from quick fashion?

Nearly all fast fashion companies (90%) contribute directly to water pollution by not treating their effluent and so letting it pollute clean water (Forbes).


People nowadays buy clothes as quickly as they discard them. Thanks to fast fashion, it’s now much more affordable to do so. But the repercussions aren’t just financial. Both the environment and the people who work in the clothing industry are suffering. One might point the finger at the stores that sell these items, but the truth is that everyone who buys fast fashion contributes to the problem. There has to be an effort made to lower the effective retail price of low-priced apparel sold at department stores and other high-traffic retail establishments.

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