The fashion industry has boomed during the past two decades – thanks to the rise of ‘fast fashion’. Fast fashion is defined as inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. Unfortunately, the very nature of this new business model is unsustainable, as it promotes excessive consumerism and generates huge amounts of waste.

In the past, we had only seasonal trends (like summer or winter) but now, due to the mass production of these fast fashion brands, we have new trends being produced every single week. Trying to keep up with these constantly shifting trends, the average person buys 60% more items of clothing every year, compared to 15 years ago. However, the problematic thing is that we are discarding old clothes just as quickly as we are buying them.

The low price points of these garments means that we have started seeing, and treating fashion as disposable. If a top is only $5-$10, it can be bought, worn once or twice, and then thrown away with no consequence. Or so people assume. In reality, we are consuming and throwing away clothes in such record, unprecedented numbers that it’s becoming a huge pollution issue for the environment. Many of the synthetic materials popular in fast fashion, such as polyester, can take up to 200 years to degrade.

If you also take into account the by-product waste of actually creating and selling the clothes in the first place – it’s a staggering amount of pollution and wasted resources. Some examples of by product waste include CO2 pollution, treatment wastewater, dye run-off and packaging.

There’s also the question of ‘dead stock’. For example, H&M reported $4.3 million in unsold clothes in one quarter of last year alone. So, what do they do with all these extra, unsold items? We’re told by the brands that they are redistributed to stores in other regions or put on sale, however there have been many reports of brands dumping, discarding, destroying or incinerating unsold stock. In other words – more pollution, more waste.

So, what is the solution? For consumers, the most simple and best solution is to simply buy less. If you must purchase something – try to source it from an ethical or sustainable brand, or buy vintage/used instead.

For more information on the harmful effects of the fast fashion industry, check out the infographic below.


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