What is the cost of the shirt you are wearing?
Clothing used to be something that was made for the sole purpose of lasting a long time. However, that time seems to be far gone. Fast Fashion has made it so that clothing is seen less as something to cover ourselves, and more as something that is disposable. To buy new clothing on a whim, and toss it out after only a few uses.
In fact, one survey done in 2015 by the charity Barnardos found that most women toss out their clothing after only wearing it 7 times. Clothing that was worn fewer than 3 times were also considered to be “old,” according to the research. In fact, many people who donate or toss out clothing, have never even put the clothing on since they bought it, and it isn’t uncommon to find clothing at thrift shops that still have their tags on them. In fact, about 6% of all landfill waste is clothing.
Many companies, such as Zara, Forever 21, and other Fast Fashion brands rely on this mindset in order to make a profit. So what is the issue with these companies?
The Issue With a $5 Dress
Fast fashion causes clothing to be so cheap, that they can be bought by pretty much anyone on any income. You would think this is a good thing, but it actually has created an industry of waste.
One of the main issues comes from the use of sweatshops in order to meet up with demand. I actually made a different Capitalism Corrupted all about the use of sweatshops, and the suffering that happens inside. People in these sweatshops, who are mainly women, and often children, are forced to work 15+ hour days, are often beaten and yelled at, and are often exposed to hazardous materials.
Thousands of garment workers have died when forced to work in extremely dangerous conditions. These include fires that have broken out in the Tanzeen Fashion factory, or the Rana Plaza collapse.
The Issue With Plastics
Most of the clothing that we have are either made entirely out of a plastic known as polyester, or have been blended with such fabrics. As a result, this makes them near impossible to be recycled.
Plastic clothing is also entirely unsustainable in the long term, mainly due to their inability to biodegrade. This makes tossing them out even more horrific to the environment as a whole.
Savers, in their 2018 State of Reuse Report, the average North American tosses out 81 pounds of used clothing annually. Of this, about 95% can be reused or recycled.
But only about 14% of clothing is even donated to sent for recycling. Of that, only about 0.1% are ground down and made into new textile fibers. But this does not mean that the clothing that you recycle ever makes it on the shelves of a thrift shop.
The issue with donating
Many people believe that if they donate their clothing to the Salvation Army, or the GoodWill, or whatever thrift shop, their clothing will be given to people in need. But this is far from the truth.
According to The New Frontier Chronical:
“Despite the Army’s outstanding effort to recycle nearly everything it touches — from clothes hangers to cardboard boxes that donations come in — there is still plenty of stuff that ends up at the dump every month, about 25 percent of all donations, officials estimate.”
Also, according to The Atlantic:
charities such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army sell only what they can in their retail shops — typically less than 20 percent of what they receive.
Meaning that the remainder, about 60% of the clothing they receive, are sold by the pound to “recyclers” who pretty much do nothing of the sort. For instance, UsAgain is a wholesaler, who buys clothing for pennies a pound, and then sells it in massive amounts of poverty-stricken countries in Africa and the Middle East.
Which means that anything that you donate has about a 1-in-5 chance of even getting sold in the store you sold it to. And if it has any missing buttons or otherwise small defects, you might as well just toss it, as that is exactly what they will do if you donate it.
So what is wrong with exportation?
Not a lot of people understand the issues with exporting second-hand clothing to places like Africa. Well, the clothing exported overseas are often of poor quality (the US keeps all the good stuff to themselves to sell), and even then, the huge influx of cheap clothing has demolished the local textile industries.
As a result, countries like Rwanda has worked to ban the import of secondhand clothing in an attempt to revive the local textile industry. As a result of this, they have gotten a lot of backlash from places like the US, such as threats of increases tariffs.
With the large influx of used clothing to African and Middle-eastern countries, people living there have been forced to burn the clothing in order to get rid of them. This releases a ton of toxic materials into the air, which can harm the environment, as well as the neighboring people.
What we can do
When it comes to fast fashion, a lot of people feel as if they are at a loss about what to do. This is because Governments and Companies have vested interest in keeping the cheap clothing coming in, and they do not care about the effects that it may have on people worldwide.
So the best thing to do would be to stop consuming clothes in such high amounts. Make what you have work for you, and work for buying more sustainable options, such as second-hand, when you do buy more clothing. Make sure that you get clothing made to last, and not made to fall apart after a few washes.
Kristen Leo is a YouTuber that has some awesome information on this topic:
No matter what you do or where you are, there is always something that we as consumers can do to benefit people and the planet in the long term.
If you liked this article and would like me to write for you, contact me at Contact@LucyCodex.com. You can also purchase some sustainable and eco-friendly craft supplies, jewelry, bags, and clothes that I make from upcycled materials, such as old T-shirts, on my Etsy store.
I write these articles on here and on my other websites for free, so every little bit helps a freelancer pay rent, and be as ethical as possible.