The Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion

It has proven difficult to place a finger on the exact effects that the fashion industry has on the environment. This is not due to lack of research, rather the supply chain for textiles is so vast that there is some impact at every stage of the process. Research carried out as part of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit revealed that the fashion industry alone is responsible for 92 million tonnes of solid waste that is dumped in landfills every year. What it is even more alarming is that this is just a single statistic in a mass of environment-related troubles.

Since the year 2000, the fashion industry, especially fast fashion which focuses on clothing moving as quickly as possible from catwalk to shops, has more than doubled its production. On average, consumers are buying around 60 percent more clothing (generally of a much lower quality), which is being kept for half the time it was 15 years ago. This lifestyle of perceived infinity puts an immeasurable strain on the earth’s limited resources.

A recent documentary aired on BBC3 showed Stacey Dooley looking into ‘Fashion’s Dirty Secrets’, and revealed some of the shocking impacts of the industry. The drying up of the Aral Sea was highlighted as one of the clearest disasters caused by neighbouring cotton farms. Located on the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the once thriving lake was an integral part of local people’s lives. It was a huge source for the fishing industry as well as a popular tourist destination, now only a vast desert almost the size of Ireland remains as a harrowing reminder of the indifference that big companies have when it comes to profit margins. Not only that, but the empty piece of land causes numerous health problems for local people, with regular dust storms whipping through the surrounding areas, carrying hazardous chemicals used on the cotton farms.

One of the most shocking parts of Dooley’s documentary, aside from the copious amount of daunting facts, is that it highlights the ignorance in the UK and other developed countries caused by companies convincing us that a consumer lifestyle is how we should be living, while hiding the devastating impact that they are having on the environment as well as the livelihood of millions of people. The ‘secrets’ of the industry revealed by Dooley are just a daily reality for the millions of people that rely on rivers that are polluted with chemicals from garment factories, those who are affected by pesticides and toxic chemical air pollution and the destruction of land caused by growing landfills. Resources are quickly diminishing across the globe for an industry that knows no limits.

[Tabitha Tinkler-Ferguson – @tabithatf]

[Image credit: Simon Dawson/Reuters]

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