Lately, there has been a lot of fuzz about fast fashion and its devastating impact on the environment. But what constitutes as fast fashion, why is it such a problem, and what can we do to diminish its impact?
What is fast fashion, you ask? Fast fashion constitutes cheap clothes or shoes of low quality, with a high turnover rate. Nowadays, you can shop new items at H&M, Zara or Primark every day. Buy now or cry forever, because tomorrow it’s gone. New trends emerge every other week or month, instead of every other season or year.
Fast fashion is produced in low income countries, with little regard for the (safety of the) workers or the environment. Workers work long hours in horrendous conditions, that can sometimes be life threatening or hazardous to their health. Child labor is not uncommon either.
Not only cheap clothes count as fast fashion, high-priced items or high-end brands can also constitute as fast fashion, based on the way they are produced or on how workers are treated.
The quality of clothing has declined over the past years. Back in the day, a winter coat would last for about 4 years. That seems like an eternity nowadays. Customers more and more demand high turnover and low prices. Those demands go in expensive of quality, as quality both takes time and is costly. To make an item durable, better and more expensive materials and high-quality machines have to be used. It’s highly unlikely that those machines are used for the production of fast fashion in low income countries, as they are costly. Fast fashion is anything but durable: it tears easily, color fades quickly and the shapes rapidly deforms. Your cheap t-shirt can only be worn a few times before it has reached the end of its lifespan.
Another problem with fast fashion is the use of toxic chemicals or dyes during production. Those chemicals can impact our health and are detrimental for the environment. Many fast fashion brands still use more lead in their wallets, belts, and shoes than is legally allowed. Lead can impact pregnancy, cause infertility, heart attacks, and more. Other chemicals influence our hormones or cause cancer. But it doesn’t stop there. The toxic chemicals seep into the water supply in the producing countries and at home, where the clothes are washed. Quite a price to pay for cheap fashion!
In the US alone, about 11 million tons of clothes are thrown away. These garments don’t break down, so the chemicals continue to spread chemicals, pesticides and lead into the air. Because of the high turnover, fast fashion brands have a lot of unsold products. They cannot be recycled because of their low quality, so they are simply burned. This is not only bad for the environment, it’s also a waste of resources.
The easiest way to make a change is to buy less, and to only buy durable and sustainable goods from honest and transparent local brands.
Not so much. But more on that next time ;).
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