Landfills and fashion waste are definitely not the first things that come to mind, when talking about fashion. In fact, those might be the last things people think about.
Taking care of the environment and the planet has been on the agenda for years. What is shocking is how big a global footprint the fashion industry makes.
According to the UN Conference of Trade and Development (UNCTD) the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. This means that the fashion industry is more polluting than aviation and shipping combined!
Perfectly New Fashion Items in Landfills
Imagine this: You are in a store to return a pair of jeans. You get your money back followed by a smile and a “have a nice day”. As you leave the store, you look back at the counter and you see that the sales lady is throwing the jeans in the bin.
What just happened? A new pair of jeans being thrown away? Actually it is not as uncommon as you might think. We´ll come back to that in a bit.
When we think about fashion we often think about products and clothes that stand out, fashion that makes you feel good and fashion that reflects who you are.
What you wear tells a story of who you are and you become the storyteller, by choosing fashion and brands that reflect you. Being able to tell your story and express who you are, through fashion, are some of many reasons why we love fashion and why we care. Now, let's get back to your returned jeans.
When you return a pair of jeans, or any other items at a store, it will in most cases be put back for sale. This is however, not always the case when you return it online. It actually often does end up in the bin!
Textile Waste Created by the Fashion Industry
Knowing that returned items often are being thrown away makes you wonder how much goes to waste in a year. Kind of hard to imagine right? Well you don't have to imagine. An estimate in 2020 says 2.6 million tons of returns were thrown away - and that is just in the U.S.
So why is this happening, you might ask. Well the answer is quite simple: Money.
When online consumer goods are returned - not just jeans, all of them - it can be more expensive for retailers to make the returned item ready for sale again, as garments may have been used (“wardrobing”) or havn’t been taken good care of. It's simply cheaper to toss it. This is especially true in fast fashion where customers are able to order a lot of clothes, pay for it later and return it for free.
But, the problem with fashion waste doesn't end there. Unfortunately. Because of overproduction in the fashion industry, landfills are filled with textile. Statistics show that every second the equivalent of a truck load of clothes is dumped or burned in landfills.
The problem with overproduction is not just for fast fashion, but also true for high end fashion brands. Every new season calls for a new trend, a new style and a new production. Globally this means that around 30% of all clothes are never sold which is clothes worth around 210 billion us dollars. And while we are talking numbers, here's another one for you: 92 million tons! That is how much textile waste the fashion industry creates annually.
Though the fashion industry is responsible for the overproduction of fashion and the fashion culture that enables this, there are still plenty of actions that can be taken to change this. Actions by conscious fashion lovers, just like you.
It's Time for Responsible and Ethical Fashion
One thing is that the fashion industry produces way too much waste. Another thing is the mentality of the consumer. If you ask your parents or grandparents, about the amount of clothes they had growing up, the answer is probably that they had way less than people have today. One reason for this is fast fashion. Fast fashion makes it both cheap and easy to buy new clothes instead of taking care of what's already in the closet. Today a consumer throws away almost 32 kilograms (70 pounds) of clothes each year - That is a lot of clothes!
If we, everyday people, change our mentality and we start taking care of our wardrobe, we as consumers can help change this problem. We can become aware of how to take care of our clothes so they last longer, aware of what kind of clothes we buy and aware of who we buy it from!
Fashion is about you. Fashion is you showing the world who you are by what you wear. Today, as the industry is growing and overproduction is only increasing, your choice of fashion is more than ever before a statement. A statement of who you are and how you deal with the environmental crisis.
How would you feel wearing an amazing outfit for an event, only to find out that the retailer you bought it from, had an unethical supply chain? A retailer who knew how to do fashion AND take care of the environment, but chose not to? Not good, right? Well, here is some good news; it's not just the retailer who has a choice, you do too!
Fashion waste and landfills are a dark side of an industry we all love. All of us can choose to focus on awareness, sharing the message, and wear fashion brands that DO choose to take on their responsibility for the environment and the planet. We call that responsible and ethical fashion!