Fast Fashion and Its Impact on the World

what is fast fashion

The Invisible Face of the Clothing Industry

For the first time in 1989 to define the mission of a clothing brand. “Fast Fashion” He used the term and explained this term as “It takes 15 days for a garment to move from the mind of the designer to the stores”. In short, "Fast Fashion" “Fast Fashion” It is the name given to the mass production and consumption trend in the clothing and fashion sector, and it is a kind of disposable fashion trend that constantly renews itself, and also means selling more products at a lower price.

This speed is the reason why the textile industry is the second most polluting sector in the world after the oil industry. According to statistics, the fast fashion industry is responsible for 20% of global wastewater and 10% of global carbon emissions. When we look at the last 15 years, it is seen that the purchase of clothing has increased by 60%.

Increasing population, rapid urbanization and a shift in the global economic power base are among the most important factors affecting the growth of the global clothing market at this rate. 

fast fashion

Well, have you ever thought about who made your trousers, in which country and how they were produced? The clothes you see in shopping malls go through many stages before they come to the showcases. A long journey awaits until textile raw materials become clothes. Then let's take a look at the life cycle of a garment in order to better understand the impact of the clothing industry on the world. 

1. Raw Material

Cotton, linen, wool, polyester etc. in fabric production. raw materials are used and the ecological fingerprint of each is different. 

a. Cotton:

Cotton cultivation has serious harmful effects on the environment and negative consequences. The need for a lot of water for cotton farming is one of these effects. It is claimed by some experts that cotton is the largest user of water among all agricultural products.

The amount of water required for one kilogram of cotton is 20.000 liters. This amount is also equivalent to the water used in the production of a single T-shirt and a pair of jeans.

In addition, pesticides that enable plants used in cotton farming to be resistant to moths and molds and to grow rapidly are chemicals that threaten the ecological balance. The use of pesticides threatens the health of those working in agricultural areas and the people around them through water, soil or air.

effects of fast fashion

b. Polyester:

Polyester, another material used in fabric production, is not natural. A petroleum-based synthetic polymer and bIt's a kind of plastic. Since the petroleum industry is a sector that releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the carbon footprint of polyester clothing is quite high.

Another thing that most of us do not know is that polyester fabric clothes are washed in the washing machine. plastic microfibers it is pouring. Microfibers that cannot be filtered because they are so small that they are not biodegradable, mix into the water and threaten marine life to a great extent. These microfibers, which are food for fish, also pose a danger to human health through fish consumption in the final analysis.

2. Processing of Raw Materials

Mercury, chromium, lead, etc. toxic substances are generally mixed with nature after they are used in the washing and dyeing stages in textile factories. for example Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPE), the active ingredient in the textile processing industry, are very harmful to our health. This substance causes burns and interferes with fertility. In Europe, restrictions and prohibitions have been imposed on the use of some toxic substances.

what is fast fashion

In this context, the risks posed by toxic substances to human health and the environment were determined by the European Union on 1 June 2007.REACH Regulation (Permit Application) has been put into effect. However, in developing countries where factories and production facilities are the majority, there are not enough regulations regarding such restrictions and it is seen that the regulations currently in force are not complied with. 

a. Transport

To understand the environmental impacts of our clothing journey, we can take the example of a pair of trousers. Trousers woven from cotton thread cotton, its raw material, is grown in Uzbekistan and processed in India; Afterwards, it is painted in the factory in Morocco and sold in France, which is the last stop.

fast fashion

It covers nearly 65.000 km on its journey from the farm to the store. This distance is equal to half a world tour.

According to the report of the Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation (A-New-Textiles-Economy Full-Report), this whole process (sum of production and shipping stages) total greenhouse gas emissions 1,2 billion tons per year. This amount is more than the greenhouse gas emissions of all international flights and sea shipments combined.

b. Recycle 

The average consumer throws away 31,75 kilograms of clothing per year, which causes us to generate 13 million tons of textile waste each year globally. 80% of these discarded textile products go to landfills or are incinerated, and 20% are reused or recycled.

Discarded clothes can stay in landfills for more than 200 years, during which time they can decompose, emitting methane, a greenhouse gas more dangerous than carbon.

Recycling and reuse, which is another option for textile waste, are two areas where various projects are carried out in many countries. These types of projects are mostly carried out by non-governmental organizations and municipalities in Turkey and the scale is local rather than national.

One of the works done is to place textile waste collection boxes at some points of streets and avenues. Textile products thrown into recycling or collection bins are reused or subjected to a process that produces regenerated fiber.

Since we are just at the beginning of the road, there is a need for a holistic evaluation of textile recycling methods in our country, and it is of great importance to develop environmental awareness.

recycling of textile waste

photo source: https://www.cevremuhendisligi.org/index.php/sifir-atik/1107-tekstil-atiklarin-geri-kazanimi

Our duty as consumers is to be conscious. To be an informed consumer:

  1. We must change our consumption habits. Before we buy anything, we should start thinking about whether we really need that product.
  2. We should do little but quality shopping by avoiding unnecessary expenses. Thus, we can use the product we bought for years.
  3. We should pay attention to product labels. We need to know what materials the product is made of and where. However, our first choice should always be ecological and organic products.
  4. We should donate unworn clothes to foundations and/or associations to give our clothes a second chance.

Finally, we must learn to slow down and appreciate the little things in life. As David Attenborough said “We must act with nature, not against it!”

References:

  1. https://oureverydaylife.com/how-much-of-the-worlds-clothing-is-made-from-cotton-9749638.html
  2. https://cdn.greenpeace.fr/site/upload…
  3. https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/cotton
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DdU7c66E9g
  5. https://www.milliyet.com.tr/hizli-moda-tuketiminin-dogaya-olan-maliyeti-nedir–molatik-1124/
  6. https://www.lemonde.fr/planete/video/2018/12/13/pourquoi-s-habiller-pollue-la-planete_5396969_3244.html#:~:text=De%20la%20fabrication%20des%20mati%C3%A8res,parfois%20ceux%20qui%20les%20portent.
  7. http://www.iib.org.tr/tr/diger-duyurular-reach-tuzugu-izne-tabi-maddeler-listesinde-guncelleme.html
  8. https://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/REACH
  9. https://www.businessinsider.com/fast-fashion-environmental-impact-pollution-emissions-waste-water-2019-10
  10. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/earth-day-2019-fashion-industrys-carbon-impact-is-bigger-than-airline-industrys/#:~:text=Total%20greenhouse%20gas%20emissions%20related,to%20the%20Ellen%20MacArthur%20Foundation.
  11. https://remake.world/stories/news/are-our-clothes-doomed-for-the-landfill/
  12. https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2016/quenching-cottons-thirst-reducing-use-water-cotton-lifecycle/57196
  13. https://www.escarus.com/tekstil-sektorunde-atik-yonetimi

About the Author

Birce Tiftikcioglu

I'm Birce Tiftikcioglu, a 16-year-old climate activist. I am a 10th grade student at a French high school in Istanbul. My interest in the climate crisis, which threatens the future of us young people, started when I went to a sustainable living camp in Germany with the AFS program in the summer of 2018. When I came back to Turkey, I met young people with the same concerns about the climate crisis and joined the Fridays For Future Turkey team. Currently, I continue my activities by organizing projects in the organization team and manage the Fridays For Future Istanbul social media account.

At the same time, I make informative posts on my @the_eco_future account. I also write articles on different topics in the school newspaper. Because of my interest in sports, I have been playing volleyball in the ITU youth team for 6 years as the team captain and I have been windsurf for 3 years.