Clothing Waste and Fast Fashion in 2020

Last year our most popular article was “Fast Fashion and How to Reduce Clothing Waste“. In fact, the majority of visitors to the CHEC website look at or end up on that post which shows an increasing awareness of concerns about the fashion industry’s impact on the planet. Due to this, we have decided to compose a follow up piece that looks at developments within the fast fashion industry throughout the last year, with updated links and information on how you can do your bit to reduce clothing waste.

It’s quite apt that this post has been published in the weeks following Christmas – one of the most wasteful times of the year. A recent report has suggested that fast fashion produces more carbon emissions than driving a car around the world six times, while £140 million worth of clothing goes into landfill each year. However, the idea of ditching fast fashion is one that seems to be making traction. It has been included in many people’s New Year resolutions (including Olivia Petter’s 2020 pledges) and a drop in Boxing Day Sales shopping has been linked to greater awareness about the impacts of fast fashion.

News stories and reports like those mentioned above should give us all hope but as the climate emergency continues to rear its head to us in the West, the impacts are already being felt by the world’s most vulnerable and marginalised people. That’s why what we would once consider positive news now comes with a follow up question “Is that enough, in the time we have?”. Examples of this are recent announcements by some of the world’s largest clothing brands to only sell sustainable clothes from 2025. On first look, this is a great achievement that is a result of increased pressure by individuals and groups concerned about the impacts the fashion industry, and in particular fast fashion, has on clothing waste. However, as the fires in Australia, increased animal extinctions, more polluted oceans and extreme weather patterns show – time is really running out. In this sense, a transition to sustainable clothing that takes until 2025 may take too long.

So what can we do about it? Individually, we can continue to change and adapt our own habits. As others mentioned in this article, making an effort to reduce your clothing waste is a good goal to have for the year. Our previous post on this topic highlighted further steps that could be taken:

  • Repair damaged clothes instead of replacing damaged clothes.
  • Exchange clothes with your friends and family.
  • If new clothes are required check second hand shops such as charity shops first. Clothes will often be cheaper here than elsewhere.
  • If you do have to buy brand new clothes, buy sustainable. They may be more expensive but they will be more durable and last longer.

These are just some steps to help you reduce your personal clothing waste. You could also donate clothes that no longer fit to charities. Look out for local collection points where you can drop of used clothes and encourage your friends and family to do the same. The more people who are aware of these issues the quicker change will come about.

The above points focus on the individual but as many point out the fashion industry must also take responsibility for its actions and must improve. However, companies will not always do this willingly and will often only respond to consumer trends. If you’re favourite shop or brand could be doing more why not contact them and ask them for improvements?

Trying to reduce clothing waste and turning your back on fast fashion is a difficult step but you’re in luck. The following list of resources, organisations and websites can help you through the changes you make while providing further information on what has been discussed above.

  • Take the #SecondHandFirst pledge and commit a % of your wardrobe to be obtained from sustainable sources.
  • Learn about your favourite brands. Good On You rates brands all over in relation to ethical and sustainable
  • Buy from Re-Fashion a site that is charitable, affordable and sustainable.
  • Read about the true value of your clothes in terms of carbon, water and other resources it takes to make them.
  • Make fashion circular – learn about and join the initiative to make the fashion industry part of a circular economy.
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