The ugly truth behind fast fashion

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What is fast fashion?

Fast fashion is inexpensive clothing produced by mass-market retailers in no time, at extremely low cost and in large quantities. These clothes have, overall, a very low quality and are made to be replaced quickly. They respond to trends and the constantly changing fashion ideals. Where we used to enjoy a new collection every season, new collections are now presented in the shops every week and in some cases even daily. 

Cheap $5 shorts in a fast fashion store

The damage fast fashion can cause

Textile production is an estimated ten percent of global CO2 emissions. After the oil industry, the fashion industry is currently the most polluting in the world. About 35 billion kilos of clothing is produced per year, according to Super Goods.

Ever thought about what happens with the clothes you throw away? In the US alone, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textile is sent to a landfill every second. Mountains of clothing are taking over acres of land in Bangladesh and India. When clothing ends up in such a landfill, it can take years to decay. Garments made from synthetic fabrics can take up to 200 years to completely decay. As clothes decay, they release toxic chemicals and dyes that corrode the soil and groundwater.

Dyeing clothing fabrics is one of the most polluting step in the production of a garment. A large percentage of all clothing ever made is colored. A lot of toxic chemicals are used. Studies have shown that these chemicals have been found even as far as the North Pole.

In addition to the chemicals used to color the clothes, the dyeing also uses an extreme amount of water. An average of 8000 liters of water is needed to produce one pair of jeans. Fifteen million pairs of jeans are sold annually in the Netherlands alone. All that water is drawn from rivers, lakes and underground water reserves, ultimately leading to extreme water shortages for the local communities and wildlife in the area.

In addition to the fact that fast fashion has a huge impact on nature, the workers in this industry work in bizarre conditions. In 2013, the world got a reality check when the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing more than 1,100 workers and injuring about 2,500 others. Unfortunately this was not even enough to convince consumers to change their shopping habits. In Fact, over the years, the amount of clothes that have been bought keeps increasing.

The Rana Plaza factory collapsed
and killed more than 1100 employees
Woman mourn the loss of their daughters and sisters in Bangladesh
Women mourn the loss of their sisters, friends and daughters
Photos: Ismail Ferdous

What we can change

We're not saying you should never buy clothes again. We only want to draw your attention to consciously deal with the choices you make. In order to generate some positive ideas about what is possible and what some alternatives are to minimize the environmental impact, there are a some topics we would like to highlight;

Organic cotton is grown in a natural way and therefore without the use of synthetic chemicals such as fertilizers or pesticides. It is a softer alternative and also lasts longer because the cotton retains its strong original properties. The main benefit is that it is better for our ecosystem; There is less water wastage, less chemical pollution of land and a safer working environment for the cotton farmers.

The next step in the production process is dyeing the fabrics. As mentioned earlier, this is usually done with chemical dyes. The sustainable alternative is to dye clothes using natural ingredients such as fruits, plants, vegetables and even pieces of wood, which are added to boiling water. Fabrics are then soaked in hot tea baths and the color automatically seeps into the garment. This process is much better for the environment and above all for the people who work with these natural dyes.

Finally, we believe that plastic is a very important aspect of pollution in the fast fashion industry. Synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester are made of plastic and lead to another well-known environmental problem - microplastics. Not only plastic bags, bottles and straws are responsible for microplastics, garments are also made with plastic fabrics. Plastic particles are released when our clothes are washed in the washing machine. Because these strands are so thin and small, the filters in our systems cannot catch it before they reach marine life and eventually also end up in our food and drinking water. Therefor avoid the use of plastic could help a great deal to minimize the ecological impact the fashion industry has on our environment.

You can find more information at our Fast Fashion page