Dealing with Waste in the Fashion Industry
Every year, the fashion industry produces a staggering amount of waste - an estimated 92 million tonnes, to be exact. Most of this waste comes from unwanted clothing that has been discarded by consumers.
The evolution of fast fashion has had an incredible impact on the amount of clothing we buy and subsequently discard each year. With some brands putting out new collections almost weekly, consumers are pushed to buy clothes more frequently to keep up with current trends. At the same time, the quality of garments has declined so much that clothes often appear faded or worn out immediately. The result is that clothes are now viewed as disposable.
But are they? Not really. Especially not when made of synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, and lycra, which are all just forms of plastic. When those garments are discarded, they usually end up in landfills where they will remain just as long as plastic bags and bottles.
So, is there anything that can be done to help deal with the waste? We’re glad you asked. Fashion companies need to do their part in combatting the waste problem, but you as a consumer can also help to reduce the burden of waste from the industry.
Go for Quality
One of the best ways to decrease the amount of textile waste going into landfills is to buy clothes of better quality. When clothes are more durable, you’ll get more use out of them before needing to replace and dispose. This means you’ll be adding fewer garments to the waste stream while also saving money. We’d call that a win.
In addition to buying better quality garments, you should make an effort to buy less clothing in general. There’s no way to keep up with 52 micro-collection trends a year anyway, so if your clothing is still in good shape, why buy more? Instead, invest in some versatile, timeless pieces that you can mix, match, and use over and over again.
Stick to Natural Fibres
Look at the fabric before buying garments and try to stick with natural fibres such as cotton, wool, and silk. Not only will natural fibres be more durable and therefore last longer, but they’ll also decompose better once disposed of.
Another way to keep fashion waste out of landfills is to purchase some of your clothing secondhand and to donate your own used clothing. Even if the clothes can’t be sold again locally, there’s a large market for secondhand clothing in developing countries. After all, where it’s used doesn’t matter. What matters is the longer a garment remains in use, the longer it stays out of landfills.
Repair or Recycle
Take a good look at your clothing before tossing it out – can it be repaired or used in some other way? Many garments just need a bit of stitching or a patch to make them usable again. And if a repair isn’t possible, you might be able to use the fabric for a quilt or as cleaning rags.
If you really can’t use the garment anymore, see if there are textile recycling facilities near you. They may be able to use your discarded fabrics to create paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, or even new clothes!
What Can Fashion Companies Do?
Consumers aren’t the only ones who can help reduce fashion waste. Clothing companies need to do their part as well, starting with creating more durable, eco-friendly garments without the push for consumers to constantly buy more.
At Untouched World, there’s a reason we only release a few collections each year. We focus on creating versatile pieces that will last, so you can use them for years to come. And since 94% of our garments are made from natural fibres, you can rest assured that when the time comes to dispose of our clothing, it won’t harm the environment.
If you’d like to learn more about Fashion’s waste problem and what can be done, start here:
- MAKE.GOOD: The Fashion Industry's Problem with Waste
- Mathilde Charpail: What's Wrong with the Fashion Industry?
- Kamyar Shirvanimoghaddam et al: Death by waste: Fashion and textile circular economy case
- Luz Claudio: Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry
- Elizabeth Kline: Where Does Discarded Clothing Go?