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The clothing and textile industry accounts for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, and only second to oil is the largest polluter in the world. The rate that we are producing, consuming and discarding clothing has already had a monumental environmental impact, and if action isn’t taken, one-quarter of our total impact on climate change will be due to clothing consumption alone by 2050.
The essence of fast fashion is to make clothes cheaply and quickly, to get new trends and styles into stores and online as soon as possible, and it comes at a high social and environmental cost. Keeping production costs low means they can make their garments cheap and advertising campaigns big, using cheap labour in unsafe working conditions, and in countries with bad environmental regulations so that they also avoid repercussions.
Throw away culture is deeply rooted in our society, three in five of our clothing pieces end up in landfills or incinerators within a year. Fast fashion brands keep the consumer hungry and feeling like they need more by tempting them with newness and convincing you that you need what they’re selling. This only results in increasing textile waste as people will not even donate or recycle the clothing they no longer want but throw it away, a staggering three-quarters of Britons throw their unwanted clothes into landfills.
Criticisms of the fast fashion industry include its negative environmental impact, water pollution, the use of toxic chemicals and increasing levels of textile waste. Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of clean water globally, after agriculture. Fast fashion companies rely on their products being made cheaply and quickly, and so cut corners when it comes to being conscious of their impact on the environment. Greenpeace’s recent Detox campaign revealed that many brands use toxic and hazardous chemicals in their supply chains, many of these chemicals are either banned or strictly regulated in lots of countries as they are toxic, bioaccumulative, disruptive to hormones and carcinogenic.
Growing cotton on a global scale requires lots of water, in countries already at risk of drought, and pesticides to avert crop failure. Some of the chemicals used in cotton agriculture are highly toxic and can have a devastating impact on livestock and humans, in one case, awful birth defects in Indian cotton farmers’ children. Although there is an increasing interest in organic and sustainable cotton, its use accounts for less than one percent of the entire world’s cotton crop, not nearly enough considering the cotton industry’s destructive nature.
In conclusion, the fast fashion industry has a detrimental effect on our environment through their unecological and unethical practices and only continues to perpetuate the problem through extreme consumerist culture. In order for change to happen, the masses need to open their eyes and stop the cycle. However, for significant change to happen, it’s, unfortunately, the companies that need to change their ways when it comes to their production lines, manufacturing, and their sell, sell, sell philosophy, which is unlikely to happen unless the consumer makes them.
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