• Ella Martin

The fast fashion monster and waste

Up first in this series of Me Complaining is:


One of the most blatant and measurable crimes of the fashion industry is how much waste it produces. Via MAKE.GOOD: "Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned... a conservative estimate is that clothing and textiles make up 7% of landfills globally although many believe this figure is closer to 12%." This waste occurs at every step of a garments life, not just the end. In cut-and-sew garments, it is common for half of the fabric to be wasted when cutting out the bulk garments- creating waste called offcuts. Fabric is used and discarded in the prototyping stage. And many companies will throw away or burn unsold clothing, either to avoid discounting it or to make room for the next season of clothes. This non-exhaustive list doesn't even include the clothing that is bought and used. This clothing may be barely used, or have mild damage, with the potential for repair or downcycling.

As all of this is happening, our production of clothing is increasing exponentially each year; more fabric milled, more garments cut. This is incredibly unnecessary. Our investment should be redirected toward utilising what exists and should be removed from the environment- but it is much more cost effective (read: profitable to shareholders) to keep using existing infrastructure.

The "clothing mountains" in the Atacama desert in Chile, via Insider

The silver lining is that this is an area of great opportunity for new industry members like me. The market understands that consumers have a greater hunger for sustainable product options- that is why fast fashion corporations are putting so much work into appearing eco-friendly. Once consumers are equipped with knowledge about the environmental and ethical harms perpetuated by fashion, they do (eventually) make habit changes. And with these changes, the consumers need options for clothing that they can trust.

There is (as I described) an incredible excess of textile waste available to those who can find and take it. I have begun to do this by going to local recycle centers and individuals for their excess fabric. I can also take any offcuts and some sampling fabric from my workplace at a fashion brand. But this is only unlocking a small amount, and I look forward to forming relationships with more sources- like other fashion brands. Truthfully, I am sure the workers at these brands don't enjoy discarding good textiles. I know those at my workplace don't. They just don't have much choice; the infrastructure and financial support isn't there to recycle it.

New quality fabric offcuts from my workplace, photo by me

So I can only hope that more young industry members will see what I am doing and get enthused to break up with new textiles and fast fashion companies as I have. At this stage I don't know how it is going to go- I am trying to do something fairly bold under the hammer of capitalism. I think it will take more strong relationships like the ones I have been creating- they do tell you that networking is everything in this industry. Community is, after all, the basis of this project. Wish me luck x Ella

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