What Is Fast Fashion—and Why Is It a Problem?

Fast fashion describes cheap, stylish, mass-produced clothes that have a huge impact on the environment. These garments appeal to shoppers because they are affordable and trendy. But because they aren’t built to last and quickly go out of style, and because the owner didn’t spend much money on them to begin with, these clothes are quickly discarded, piling up in landfills.

In addition to environmental issues, fast fashion garments spark a lot of ethical concerns. They are often made in sweatshops where underpaid workers are employed for long hours in unsafe conditions and are exposed to harmful chemicals used in textile production. 카지노사이트

The Definition of Fast Fashion
In 1960, the average American adult bought fewer than 25 items of clothing each year. The average American household spent more than 10% of its income on clothing and shoes. And about 95% of clothes sold in the U.S. were made there, too.

But things began to change in the ‘70s. Massive factories and textile mills opened in China and other countries throughout Asia and Latin America. With the promise of cheap labor and material, they could mass-produce inexpensive garments quickly. By the ‘80s, a few big American retail stores began outsourcing production.

“Any company making clothing in the United States couldn’t compete,” writes Elizabeth Cline in “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Fast Fashion.” “They either had to shut down or move on to importing.”

With clothing being so cheap, consumers are able to buy more. An entire industry surrounding seasonal trends has grown up, replacing a previous focus on quality and durability. Today, the average American purchases about 70 pieces of clothing each year, but spends less than 3.5% of its budget on clothes. Now only about 2% of clothes sold in the U.S. are made in the U.S. 안전한카지노사이트

With such hunger from consumers for new items, fashion companies have moved from releasing clothes seasonally (four times a year) to a model of frequent releases, sometimes refreshing their stock on a weekly basis.

Common fast fashion brands include Zara, H&M, Shein, UNIQLO, Gap, Primark, Victoria’s Secret, Urban Outfitters, Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing, Missguided, Mango, and TopShop, among many others.

The Problems With Fast Fashion
Although consumers might enjoy having inexpensive and stylish clothes, fast fashion has been criticized for its environmental and ethical impact.

Textile Waste
We’re more likely to throw away cheap, trendy clothes than more expensive, timeless pieces. This shouldn’t be surprising because when we don’t spend much money on something, we tend to value it less. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 17 million tons of textile waste were generated in 2018, of which only 2.5 million tons were recycled.1 Clothing has far lower recycling rates than other materials like paper, glass, or even plastic. This has to do with the short-fiber fabrics that are used; these are cheaper and thinner and cannot be rewoven into new fabrics.

Another problem is the blended fabrics that are now so common. Chetna Prajapati, a researcher from Loughborough University in the U.K., explained to the BBC: “For example, a 100% cotton t-shirt contains many other components such as labels and sewing threads which are usually made from another material like polyester. Similarly, a typical pair of jeans are made from cotton yarn which is generally blended with elastane, and other components such as zips and buttons and polyester sewing thread and dyed using a range of dyes.”2

It’s next to impossible to separate all those components for proper recycling—and even if it were doable, the hours of skilled labor required would be significant and expensive.

The average American throws away about 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles each year, according to the Council for Textile Recycling.3 The equivalent of one garbage truck of clothes is dumped in landfills or burned every second in the U.S., according to a 2017 report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a U.K.-based charity working towards a circular economy.4 According to the report, an estimated $500 billion is lost annually because of clothing that’s hardly worn or not recycled. 카지노사이트 추천

CO2 Emissions
Besides the sheer bulk of waste in landfills, fast fashion has an impact on the environment through carbon emissions. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global CO2 emissions each year, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.4 That’s more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Researchers project that if things don’t change, by 2050 the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget.

Carbon emissions occur during transportation from factories to retail outlets. Then they occur again by the consumer during purchase, either in person or online. They can occur a final time when the consumer discards the product and it is taken to a landfill and sometimes burned.

The type of material used matters, too. Approximately 63% of all textiles are derived from petrochemicals, which means that significant amounts of CO2 are being released in the extraction and production of those nonrenewable materials.

Water Pollution
In addition to CO2 pollution, these clothing items can contribute to marine pollution. Clothes made out of synthetic fabrics can contain microplastics. This includes fabrics made from recycled water bottles, which are often touted as an eco-friendly solution. When these items are washed or if they are sitting in a landfill and are subject to rains, the tiny shreds of plastic are flushed into wastewater systems and eventually make their way out into the ocean.

Studies have shown the plastic fibers can end up in the stomachs of marine animals, including some that wind up as seafood. A study published in Environmental Science and Technology found that more than 1,900 fibers on average can be shed by a synthetic clothing garment during just a single trip through the washing machine.6

Many of the dyes and chemicals used to color and set fabrics are highly toxic, both to workers and to the surrounding natural environment. Many factories in underdeveloped countries lack proper safety equipment, ventilation, and disposal mechanisms. Often they will flush wastewater out into nearby rivers, polluting agricultural and potable water supplies for people and animals.

Speaking of water, cotton production is extremely water-intensive. Conventional growing methods use large amounts of pesticides, too. When cotton is being used for quasi-disposal garments, the environment cost of production increases significantly.

Unsafe Labor Conditions

In order to mass produce so many inexpensive garments so quickly, items often aren’t ethically made. Factories are often sweatshops where laborers work in unsafe conditions for low wages and long hours. In many cases, children are employed and basic human rights are violated, reports EcoWatch. Workers can be exposed to caustic chemicals and dyes and may work in dangerous situations where safety may not be a concern.

The tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which killed 1,132 people and injured 2,500 in April 2013, alerted much of the developed world to the plight of distant garment workers. People were horrified to learn that despite safety concerns about the building’s integrity being raised prior to the collapse, garment workers were forced back to work because of the high pressure for fast turnaround times coming from major fashion brands in the U.S. and Europe. The event forced shoppers to think about who was actually making their clothes.

Alternatives to Fast Fashion

The aptly named alternative to fast fashion is slow fashion. Coined by eco textiles consultant and author Kate Fletcher, the phrase is about buying ethical, sustainable, quality garments. It requires a mental shift away from chasing trends toward embracing quality, practicality, classic beauty, and ethical production.

“Slow fashion is a glimpse of a different—and more sustainable—future for the textile and clothing sector and an opportunity for business to be done in a way that respects workers, environment and consumers in equal measure,” Fletcher writes. “Such a future is but a garment away.”

When shopping, try to consider quality over quantity and timelessness over trendiness. Will the item last for a long time and will it stay in style so you’ll want to keep wearing it? Also, when shopping, try to see if the manufacturer uses sustainable and fair labor practices.

You might also want to consider skipping new clothes and buying secondhand items instead. This is arguably the greenest way to dress because you’re making use of an item that’s already been made, you’re saving it from landfill, and you’re reducing demand for new resources. You can find great items at thrift stores, many of which not only give clothes a new life, but also donate to charity.

Repairing, Caring, and Donating
There are more steps you can take to make sure the clothes you have last longer or don’t end up in a landfill.

Wash clothes only as necessary, using a gentle detergent, to extend their life. Deal with stains promptly and properly.
Repair rips, broken zippers, and lost buttons instead of tossing damaged items. Find a local tailor or seamstress who can help you with these repairs if they’re beyond your level of ability. YouTube can be a great resource, too. Some companies (like Patagonia) now offer repair services.
Donate what you no longer wear. Use this location finder from the Council for Textile Recycling to find a donation/recycling center near you.
Have a clothing exchange with friends.

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