How Fast Fashion is destroying the Planet
On every occasion, we hook on to a completely new piece of dress, no matter how large or small that event may be but repeating clothes is hardly a thing to consider. And with the rise of fashion influencers through digital media we are every day being served with collections that we end up buying even if they weren’t required at all.
But have you ever wondered what goes behind making a piece of clothing you buy? Is this industry as beautiful as your just bought clothing is? The reality is this picture is not as good as it seems to be.
The fashion industry is largely dependent on resources and this just worsened with the introduction of fast fashion.
Understanding what fast fashion is
A decade ago, the time a product required from designing to delivery was around a month. And now these fast fashion brands list new designs every day. Around 3K new designs are introduced weekly. These products are cheap, low in quality and to keep up with the change in fashion trends, rampwalk designs are pushed to the customers very frequently.
But let’s just see how garments are offered at a low price and how fast fashion is a threat to the planet.
Unethical working conditions
One out of six people is employed in the fashion industry. These industries are specifically set up in developing countries where the minimum legal wage is low, almost 5 times less than the required living wage. The companies tend to take advantage of the poor population already looking for work and offer them work at low wages.
The workers are forced to work for 7 days, for 13 to 14 hours a day. Due to fast fashion and short-term requirements of new clothing, they are also forced to work overtime. Even if they are paid for over-work, it doesn’t get justified with the amount they are being paid.
The majority of the employees in this industry are women aged between 18 to 24 and with no minimum skill set requirement, minor children are being forced by their families to work here.
There have been several reports of garment workers facing verbal and physical abuse to meet the deadlines so that companies can launch new designs every day.
Ridwanul Haque, chief executive of the Dhaka-based NGO Agroho told CNN, “”People don’t have gloves or sandals, they’re barefoot, they don’t have masks, and they are working with dangerous chemicals or dyes in a congested area. They are like sweat factories.”
Overutilization of resources
The fashion industry is the second-largest consumer of water. From growing organic fibers to processing synthetic fibers, for dyeing or even for finishing, each stage consumes a lot of water. Each year around 7 trillion liters of water is being consumed by the fashion industry alone.
“It takes 2700 liters of water to make 1 cotton t-shirt which is sufficient for a person to drink for 2.5 years”
The fashion industry uses land to grow cotton. If it’s wool then the land is used for pasture for sheep and goats. Also setting up of industries and stores too require land resources. Not only this, overgrazing of pastures and usage of chemicals to grow cotton have been degrading the quality of the soil in these lands.
The land which could have been used for settlement areas or for crop production is now used as a source of fiber for cheap quality clothes.
Increase in waste
“One garbage truck of waste clothes is dumped into landfills every second.”
Fast fashion has led to the continuous production of wear and tear clothes. These clothes fade out after a few washes and are dumped by consumers. Not only this, with the introduction of new designs consumers tend to keep pace with fashion and buy new clothes resulting in more waste generation.
The textile made from petroleum and harmful chemicals are non-biodegradable and can even take up to hundreds of years to decompose.
According to UNEP, the clothing industry contributes to 10% of global carbon emission, the majority of the factors being the production and transportation methods.
Fabrics like polyester, acrylic, nylon are derived from petroleum, emitting 3 times higher CO2 than cotton production. This becomes more worrying when you realize that 60% of all fabrics are petroleum derivatives only.
The majority of the textile production industries are set up in China, Bangladesh, India and from there they are exported across the globe. The energy requirements for the operations of these industries and the transportation of goods excessively contribute to greenhouse emissions.
Chemicals and microfibers
To give life to fabric or to make it aesthetically appealing- dyeing, bleaching, or several other chemical treatments are done. These treatments require an excessive amount of water and this chemical-laden water is dumped off into rivers directly.
This wastewater contains lead, mercury, and other toxic elements which are not only a threat to aquatic life but makes water unsafe for human consumption.
Washing these fabrics again shed these chemicals and microfibers. Both mix with underground water and return into your glass of drinking water.
Filtration processes can remove chemicals to an extent but microfibers get unnoticed. And when these microfibers are from polyesters, they don’t even biodegrade.
“An average human consumes credit card sized plastic each week.”