Consequences of Fast Fashion

In a typical fast fashion model, the journey to the rack begins on farms in third-world countries. Farmers barely eke out a living, selling cotton at bottom-of-the-barrel prices as companies attempt to extract the lowest prices possible. Once the cotton has been procured, garment manufacturing is often carried out at extremely low wages by sweatshop workers, who face difficult factory conditions and brutally long hours.

After these mass-produced clothing items arrive in stores, consumers excitedly buy the latest trendy, low-cost items. But after a few wears, the cheaply made garments inevitably begin to come undone. Once the item has gone out of style, it may be donated to a secondhand charity — or simply discarded.

Unfortunately, secondhand vintage shops are shockingly wasteful — only 10% of the clothes donated to charity are then resold by thrift shops. Most of the unsold clothes are shipped to countries like India or Haiti. However, so many clothes have been donated to these countries that the neediest people often don’t even want the clothing; so off to the landfill it goes.

With so many millions of articles of clothing produced each year, the trend towards disposable fashion is troubling, as it puts undue strain on a waste disposal system that is already over capacity. It is estimated that 40% of landfill mass is made up of disposed textiles; the U.S. alone throws out 11 million tons of clothing every year, and as fast fashion continues, this number is sure to grow.

So, while fast fashion is a marker of an incredibly controlled and fast-thinking supply chain, it comes with its own costs — something to consider on your next trip to the mall.

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