Pile of discarded clothing

The Fashion Industry Waste Is Drastically Contributing To Climate Change

Fashion, fashion, fashion… I have to say, I am quite an addict when it comes to buying clothes and trying new popular trends. But have you ever thought about where all that clothing goes after you’re done with it?

By: Valentina Portela, CALPIRG Intern

 

Fashion, fashion, fashion… I have to say, I am quite an addict when it comes to buying clothes and trying new popular trends. I’m sure many of us enjoy shopping and trying new styles of shoes, jeans, tops, jackets, and more to communicate who we are to the world. But have you ever thought about where all that clothing goes after you’re done with it? Do you donate it? Recycle it? Trash it? What about the clothes that don’t get sold in the first place?

 

85% Of Our Clothes End Up In Landfills Or Burned

It might come to a surprise to learn that around 85% of textiles thrown away in the U.S. are dumped into landfills or burned -- including unused textiles and unsold clothes. Furthermore, it is estimated that the average American throws away about 37kg/81 pounds of clothes every year-- that's the weight of an 11-year-old child! And that’s only counting the U.S. To give you an idea of how big the global textile waste crisis is, imagine a garbage truck fully filled with textiles and clothes being thrown into landfills every single second of the day, every year. 

Even if we tried to recycle all of our old clothes, it’s important to acknowledge that a lot of these textiles --about 60 percent of them -- are not recyclable in the first place, which is why they end up in landfills or burned. Many of our clothes are made with plastic. Some of the synthetic fibers in our clothes are called polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or most commonly known as polyester, nylon, acrylic and others. These fibers are made from crude oil, which makes them almost impossible to reuse in other ways -- meaning they cannot be recycled or composed. There are numerous eco-friendly fibers that could replace plastic in clothes, but because there are no restrictions or laws, the fashion industry continues to actively participate in using plastic fibers in their clothes. 

 

Manufactures And Clothing Retailers Are Causing This Pollution

A lot of the clothing waste comes from manufacturers--13 million tons of textiles each year-- and from clothing retailers themselves. Manufacturers overproduce the supply of clothing, and retailers end up overstocked-- as seasons change, the unsold supply ends up thrown away to landfills. Manufacturers are in control of what fibers they use in their textiles, and they are in control of how much product they produce. The fashion industry overproduces products by about 30-40% each season, contributes roughly 10% of all global carbon emissions and is the world's second worst offender in terms of water and plastic pollution. Remember the plastic fibers in your clothes? Our clothes are eventually contributing to the microplastic pollution in our oceans- harming marine life and contributing to climate change. Clearly, textile overproduction is harming our planet. 

If we are aware of how overproduction of clothing and other textiles directly affects the planet and the human population, why do manufacturers and retailers keep continuing this cycle? Also, why do they continue to use plastic fibers when there are more earth-friendly materials that can be used instead of plastic?

It's time for clothing manufacturers to start doing their part, end their wasteful practices and stop destroying overstock clothing. As consumers, we can start supporting eco-friendly manufacturers because -- let’s face it -- waste is out of fashion.