Fashion is so accessible these days, its crazy and concerning. The Council of Textile Recycling estimates 35 billion pounds of textiles will be wasted in 2019.
That is not ok.
Did you know the Effects of Fashion Waste?
- 1 in 5 people reported to throwing away clothing instead of recycling or donating.
- It’s estimated that less than 1 percent of material used to produce clothing is recycled into something more. That’s about a loss of 100 billion USD worth of materials every year.
- The apparel and footwear industries account for a combined estimate of 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and fashion is the third highest-polluting industry in the world, after oil and chemical manufacturing.
- According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the fashion industry produces 20 percent of global wastewater.
- Donations don’t always end up on someone back. That clothing can still end up in landfills. Due to flaws in the clothing, thrift or consignments, might not deem clothing sell-able. Those items are bailed and shipped to third world countries harming local textile workers, although it does help those in poverty. Only 25% of people donate and only 7% of people purchase secondhand items.
- Some materials, like synthetic fibers, take a long time, almost 100 years to decompose, and add to our landfills. Many types of material, especially in organic form, are recyclable. Leather for instance, takes about 40 years to decompose. Plus, microfibers from fabrics wind up in the ocean and threaten aquatic life.
- Making clothes can generate the push to be trendy and on style leads to quickly and poorly made clothing. The average lifetime of a piece of clothing is approximately 3 years and consumer willingness seems to present a challenge, as sustainably made clothing comes at a higher price.
- There has been increased use of toxins and pesticides, especially with plant based materials, like cotton. Dyes or bleached toxins used to treat clothing can be released into the air and damage the Ozone.
However, awareness and attitude is changing.
Sixty percent of millennial’s say they would like to shop more sustainably! And in more good news, fashion brands globally are working on better production methods. For example, Patagonia is the first company to make polyester fleece out of plastic bottles.
H&M has become synonymous with “fast fashion” over the years, but is also quickly becoming sustainable fashion’s most vocal supporters. Evidence of their commitment to the cause can be seen through their increasing use of recycled materials in their clothing production, which increased from 26% in 2016 to 35% in 2017. In total, and in partnership with San Francisco’s Zero Textile Waste initiative, they have collected almost 18,000 tons of textiles through its own garment collecting initiative in the past year, which is the equivalent of 89 million T-shirts.
Looking forward, H&M is also making strides for a more equitable workplace in addition to an environmentally friendly fashion industry. In 2018, 100 percent of their garment manufacturer units in Bangladesh conducted democratic elections of worker representatives, and out of the 2,882 persons were elected, 40% were women. Furthermore, H&M has pledged to use all recycled or sustainably sourced materials by 2030, setting an annual collection target of 25,000 tons of disposed clothes.
Adidas is another company working as a sustainable leader, publishing an annual Sustainable Report. They banned use of plastic bags in their stores in 2015 and are partnering Parley for Oceans project, making shoes out of plastic harvested from the ocean.
So what can you do to help?
- You can take items to Levi, Northface, American Eagle and Madewell that will recycle clothing. You may even get a reward from a few, H&M offers 15% off and Madewell offers $20 off a purchase of denim.
- Cities have drop off sites you can find by searching textile recycling in your area.
- Take time to repair clothing, like a missing button or broken zipper.
- Upcycling vintage pieces can extend life of your wardrobe and you’ll have one of a kind items.
- Most importantly, research brands so you know about your purchase!
A thriving planet will always be most fashionable and if we can practice awareness and responsibility, then I think we’ll be taking the right steps into a better and still stylish future.
Information from Impakter and New York Post
Rewire: What to Do With Apparel Too Dirty To Donate, 20 dec 2017
Ellen MacArthur Fund: A New Textile Economy
Unece Forest & Timber: Fashion is in an Environmental and Social Emergency
Kreussler inc. Blog, 4 Sept 2018