Australians are the world’s second largest consumers of textiles, buying an average of 27kg of new clothing and other textiles each year. Disturbingly, the average Australian throws away 23kg of textiles each year. In fact, more than 500,000 tonnes of textiles and leather end up in landfill each year.
At this rate, Australian’s are on track to produce enough textile waste to cover the surface of Australia by the year 2030.
If we look at the wardrobe of the average Australian woman, she wears only 40 % of what’s in her wardrobe, which means that 60 % is just sitting there.
Effects of fast fashion
The effect of buying fast fashion are many. The fashion industry produces 10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions and is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply. According to WWF, approximately half of all textiles are made of cotton. It takes more than 20,000 litres of water to produce just one kilogram of cotton, which roughly equals one T-shirt and a pair of jeans.
1. Effects on the environment
Tonnes of cheap clothing are churned out from developing countries every year. Natural resources are being polluted. Toxic fumes and chemicals are being thrown into waterways. Waterways are said to turn the colour of the latest fashion, leaving water unfit for human or animal consumption. Habitats are permanently damaged.
The materials used for most of this fast fashion is often synthetic and non-biodegradable. When washed, the fabric releases micro-fibres into our precious water catchments and oceans. Now days, it is common place for fish to be found full of micro plastics.
2. Effects on women
Oxfam research shows that many women are enslaved to work in factories that produce cheap clothing for us. Most of the workers are women aged 18 – 25, making up 80% of the factory workers in the global garment industry.
In Bangladesh, the local minimum wage equates to just 39 Australian cents an hour. In Vietnam it is just 64 cents and in China it is 93 cents. Women cannot live on this wage. Our addiction to fashion keeps women in economic slavery.
3. Effects on landfill
Mother Earth is being filled with our rubbish. 75% of Australian shoppers throw away whatever they’ve bought within the year they’ve bought them, and 30% throw away more than 10 articles of clothing. If they are thrown in the trash, they are swept up and buried in the earth.
And if they are donated, many of the items donated end up in landfill. Even the small percentage of clothes that are donated to charity, the ones with tiny marks or loose threads are immediately added to the landfill pile.
What can we do?
When looking at fashion, our waste free ethos can be challenged. Yet there are some great initiatives popping up. Clothes Libraries are encouraging people to rent clothes instead of purchasing them. You can wear them for an important meeting or a date, then return them. And if that’s not your thing, why not try some of these waste free ideas.
- Many people already donate clothes to the local charity shop. If you decide to take the option of donating your clothes, make sure that clothes are cleaned and mended before you send them to the charity shops. Otherwise you are sending them the long way to the landfill. Planet Ark has some great ideas on how to donate other objects.
- Some fashion retailers will also accept clothing donations in store. H&M and Zara both offer donation bins as part of their environmental commitment and they accept unwanted clothes from any fashion label and in any condition. Check whether your local stores have donation bins online.
- This is a great way to recycle old socks. Manrags encourages people to purchase a home compostable satchel for $5 and send 20 washed odd or old socks. Any socks that can’t be salvaged will be recycled and turned into new textiles.
- What teenager doesn’t love a hand me down? Share your clothes with younger members of your family and friends.
- Have a swap party where you encourage your friends to swap unwanted items of clothing for clothes that they want.
- Declutter, hold that garage sale you were meaning to have. Share your clothes and your extra household items with your neighbours. Take them straight to a local organisation like a homeless shelter or women’s shelter.
- Make some extra cash and sell your precious items online. There are many Marketplace options where you can sell your clothes or buy good quality second hand clothes.
- Choose carefully the clothes you buy. Look for ethical fabrics and sustainable brands. Sea Shepherd is a favourite for gifts. They sell organic hoodies to keep you warm and profits go to saving the oceans.
- Choose natural fibres where possible. Natural fibres such as 100% cotton and wool can be placed in the compost pile.
- Buy second hand or vintage.
- If you travel to countries in need, fill your bag up with unwanted clean and mended clothing items. Hand directly to families or charities in that country.
And when you are in doubt…
…even go as far as buying nothing!