Fashion waste has emerged as a credible threat to the environment over the past few years. With the advent of ‘fast fashion’, clothes are being manufactured at a fast rate and discarded at a faster one. According to the United States Environment Protection agency, 84% of unwanted clothes in the US in 2012 went into either landfills or an incinerator. In Australia, more than 5,00,000 tonnes of textiles and leather end up in landfills every year.
Clare Press, author of Wardrobe Crisis, claimed that the average woman wears only 40% of what’s in her wardrobe. Out of the remaining 60%, only 15% makes it to charities, rest is discarded into landfills or burned in incinerators.
Even if the fibres used in the manufacture of these garments are natural, like cotton or wool, the chemicals used in the finishes can leech from the textiles and pollute the groundwater. By burning these, the toxins are released in the air. Synthetic fibres like polyester or nylon have more obvious environmental drawbacks because they are essentially a type of plastic and are non-biodegradable.
What can you do?
Aside from the popularization of ‘sustainable fashion’, there have been some industry-led initiatives that raise awareness of the crisis at hand. Designer Aneeth Arora, of Pero, introduced a special service called ‘Upcycled’ that offers customers personalization of old favourites or any mass produced garments. On the occasion of World Environment Day, fashion retail giant H&M is launching a global recycling drive called ‘Wardrobe detox ’17’. Over the course of the next week, people are encouraged to bring their old clothes (of any brand) drop them in the recycle bins at any store outlet. Aside from the fact that you might be potentially saving the environment (every faded T-shirt matters), you will also get discount vouchers in exchange for your clothes. The recycled garments will be used to produce textile for new clothes. The profits made from this will be reinvested in research and innovation in textiles.