Once upon a time, before fashion became available to everyone, it was strongly associated with high society or higher class. The fashion industry operated on four seasons per year (fall, winter, spring, and summer) and designers would plan and work for months to plan and predict what they think their customers would love to wear (Staunton, 2019). Then, in the 1960’s, the fashion industry began to increase its production pace and lowered the costs of their products (Idacavage, 2018) – introducing what we know today as ‘fast fashion’.
“Fast Fashion” refers to garments (usually a copy of the latest catwalk styles and trends) that are cheaply produced, costs almost nothing, and are produced within a very short period of time. These garments are produced and sold quickly by fast fashion companies (Zara, H&M, Pull & Bear, Topshop, and its clan) to profit off current trends (Maiti, 2020). Instead of producing new lines of clothes every four seasons like designers did in the past, these fast fashion brands produce approximately 52 micro-seasons a year (which means that at least 1 new “collection” is released every week). The increased rate of production and the rushed manner in which these clothes were manufactured meant that there was barely any time for manufacturers to do a proper quality control (Idacavage, 2018). Which is why, sometimes, clothes produced by fast fashion brands are missing buttons or seem like it’s manufactured poorly.
The Truth about the Clothes You Buy and Dispose
Although clothes are part of a basic human need, the ugly truth is, the fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest pollutant-releasing industries. 5 percent of the space in landfill is consumed by textile waste, 10 percent of humanity’s carbon emissions are produced by the fashion industry, 20 percent of water pollution is contributed by the process of textile treatment and dyeing (fibre2fashion, 2012; Business Insider; 2019).
56 million tonnes of clothing are being purchased every year. One might think that that was an exaggerated number, but according to UNEnvironment (2019), the average consumer now buys 60% more clothing than they did 15 years ago. In fact, Wall Street Journal stated that in 2020, the average person purchased 68 garments and will only wear them seven times before chucking it in the bin. As a result of fast fashion production, impulse purchases that led to garments being disposed of, 92 million tonnes of textile waste (equivalent to a large rubbish truck full of clothes) are thrown away each year. The devastating part is - only a very small amount of unused clothes are sent away by its previous owners for recycling. Alas, garments, something that used to be rare to the society and required months of manufacturing, became a target of impulsive purchases that ended up in a landfill.
Which brings us to our next point. Clothes that are not made of biodegradable fabrics won’t decompose when they end up in landfills - at least not until 200 years later (Bell, 2020). These types of clothes in landfills release methane and carbon dioxide, also known as harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, when they decompose (Wallander, 2012). Aside from the release of harmful gas, when clothes decompose in landfills, they tend to release toxic chemicals and dyes into the groundwater and our soil (Brown, 2021).
Hence, it is important to purchase clothing that is made of biodegradable materials, such as Amni Soul Eco ®. A result of research by the Rhodia-Solvay group, Amni Soul Eco ® is the first 6.6 polyamide yarn that is 100% biodegradable. While traditional polyamide takes 10-100 years to decompose, Amni Soul Eco ® decomposes within 3 years after its been discarded and landfilled. Manufactured using processes that are mindful of the environment, the production of Amni Soul Eco ® involves recycling process water and treatment of greenhouse gases before being released to the atmosphere to protect our ozone layer.
How can we prevent apparel pollution?
At DULO, we are ambitious about preventing the increase of apparel pollution. We have consulted several sources and did our research. Based on what we found, here are several ways you can prevent from contributing to apparel pollution;
- Choose sustainable brands
- Buy less cheap clothes and focus more on higher-quality ones. We’re not saying they have to be from luxurious brands, but try to avoid purchasing from fast fashion brands as they are cheaply produced and are not meant for long-term use
- Consider swapping, renting, or re-selling! By promoting a circular economy or keeping materials in the system for as long as possible, you can already reduce the amount of clothes that will end up in landfills
- Look for clothes that are made of organic/natural fibers, for example, Amni Soul Eco ®. By buying clothes that are made of biodegradable fabrics, you would contribute to reducing the negative impact of apparel waste/accumulation in landfills.
- Consider purchasing clothes that were manufactured in countries with stricter environmental regulations for factories (for example, EU countries)
Our intention for writing this article is not to shame you or greenwash our brand, but to increase awareness of where clothes end up when you throw them into the bin and how it affects our planet. In conclusion, we understand that it can be very tempting to purchase cheap clothes, however it might be worth your time to consider if you would be wearing it for a long period of time. If you are going to end up throwing in the bin, perhaps it would be better to not purchase it. Or if you did purchase it and you don’t want to wear it anymore, perhaps consider that your clothes might deserve a second chance from someone else who wants/needs it!