The Environmental Price of Fast Fashion

This piece was written by Jidan Howlander.

According to Solene Rauturier, a Digital Marketing Manager with a Master of Arts in Fashion Communication & Media, the overproduction & consumption of fast fashion has made fast fashion the world’s largest polluter in recent times. Fast fashion can be defined as the world’s leading industry to buy trendy clothing at a cheaper price point. Consumer demands for new styles and trendy clothing have ramped up the production of fast fashion so that consumers can get these products within the trend’s lifetime. Although fast fashion has been deemed as environmentally unfriendly but in what ways does fast fashion negatively impact the environment we live in? Researchers have found many environmentally unfriendly materials that are being used in the production of fast fashion products. However, during the production of fast fashion, the excessive waste of material, usage of non-renewable material, and the pollution of fast fashion material in the waters have made more of an impact on the environment.

The materials that are being produced for fast fashion clothing have impacted the waters and life that depends on water. Rachel Bick, a professional fashion designer with a degree in fashion design from the Fashion Insititute of Technology, wrote, “textile dyeing results in additional hazards as untreated wastewater from dyes are often discharged into local water systems, releasing heavy metals and other toxicants that can adversely impact the health of animals in addition to nearby residents.” Solene Rauturier, a Digital Marketing Manager with a Master of Arts in Fashion Communication & Media, wrote, “Conventional cotton requires enormous quantities of water and pesticides in developing countries. This results in drought risks and creates extreme stress on water basins and competition for resources between companies and local communities.” Rachel Bick studied the fast fashion industry and how detrimental the production of fast fashion materials can be to the environment. Textile dyeing which was mentioned by Bick is usually for materials similar to polyester which is the most common

material for fast fashion clothing. Solene Rauturier blogs about sustainable clothing to persuade her audience to stop buying clothes from fast fashion companies. Rauturier describes conventional cotton as genetically modified cotton that is chemically treated. Conventional cotton uses tons of water to produce which can cause droughts in third-world countries where fast fashion factories are most commonly established. Rachel Bick and Solene Rauturier have both essentially talked about the dangers of fast fashion in water systems and talked about how the pollution of the water systems affects the lives that are dependent on those water systems. As a result, rayon materials like conventional cotton and polyester as well as the process of textile dyeing have been harming local water systems and oceans and the life that depends on those waters.

Fast fashion companies widely tend to use cheap and non-renewable materials. The most widely used one that is favored by fast fashion companies is polyester material. Polyester is a type of synthetic fabric that is derived from fossil fuels like petroleum. Alon Tal, a leading environmental politician, academic, and activist, and Meital Peleg Mizrachi, a researcher and a lecturer on sustainable fashion and environmental justice, wrote “Each year, the fashion industry requires more than 98 million tons of non-renewable resources. This involves oil utilized in synthetic fiber production and massive fertilizer applications to produce cotton, contributing a quarter of the world’s polluting chemicals, emitting 1.2 billion greenhouse gases a year, producing 20–35% of the micro-plastics found in the sea.” Beatrice Malchiodi, a structural engineer and Ph.D. student in Materials Engineering at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, wrote, “…During this finishing process, a suspension of waste microfibers is generated in the air, which is then collected by air-filtering systems, compacted, and delivered to landfills.” Fanie van Rooyen, an experienced writer, journalist, and researcher specializing in science

communications, wrote, “The global consumer is slowly realizing that synthetic, fossil-fuel – derived, fast-fashion textiles are inherently wasteful, non-circular, and unsustainable…and responsible for adding tons of microplastics pollution into our oceans.” Alon Tal and Meital Peleg Mizrachi both wrote about what the term fast fashion meant, the environmental implications of fast fashion, and the social implications of fast fashion. They both talked about how the materials used in the production of fast fashion have negatively impacted the environment through many research findings and qualitative studies. They both concluded that the usage of polyester material is harmful to the ocean as microplastics are being released into it. Beatrice Malchiodi wrote about her examination of synthetic fabric and organic cotton material as well as how harmful microplastics can be when used. Based on her examination, microplastics that are released into the air all get put into landfills which can pollute local landfills. Fanie van Rooyen wrote about wool making a comeback into fashion and replacing polyester as the main material used in fast fashion products. He concluded on how unsustainable polyester is to the environment we are living in and that the resurgence of wool may help ease back the environment. The common theme or idea that all the authors have talked about was the unsustainability and the negative effects of polyester being the main material used for the production of fast fashion materials.

The excessive waste of fast fashion materials has also contributed to the declining environment that has impacted us. However, the excessive waste of material is especially dangerous because most of them are polyester material clothing. Rachel Bick, a professional fashion designer with a degree in fashion design from the Fashion Insititute of Technology, wrote, “In fact, the average American throws away approximately 80 pounds of clothing and textiles annually, occupying nearly 5% of landfill space.” Daniela Simina Stefan, a faculty of

Applied Chemistry and Material Sciences, wrote, “Around 6 million tonnes of textiles are discarded every year in the European Union (EU), approximately 11 kg per person. The textile industry is one of the most polluting, requiring large amounts of energy to produce synthetic fibers, and generally to produce clothes, consuming water and rejecting millions of liters of contaminated water every day, and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.” Rachel Bick studied the fast fashion industry and how detrimental the production of fast fashion materials can be to the environment. One of her arguments for why fast fashion is unsustainable was the textile waste it creates and how the microplastics pollute the waters and endanger the life it depends on. Daniela Simina Stefan wrote about different methods we can use to reduce textile waste from being created. She briefly stated the dangers of textile waste to our environment and how it can affect the life that depends on the waters and us humans. Textile waste according to both sources has polluted the waters and landfills which contributes even more to the declining environment.

Furthermore, excessive textile waste, usage of nonrenewable materials, and the pollution of the waters have made fast fashion the leading polluter of the environment. Having trendy clothing and the demands of consumers for these products lead to more production of fast fashion products which can lead to our environment in a dangerous position. Fast fashion based on the sources mostly affects the waters which are dangerous in recent news, the pollution of water has led to sea levels rising and killing many sea life that we need for our environment to prosper. Boycotting the fast fashion industry, using sustainable materials, and decreasing the high demand of consumers can help decrease the danger to our declining environment.