The economic, social and environmental impacts of ‘fast fashion’

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The average consumer bought 60 percent more clothes in 2014 than in 2000, but kept each garment for half as long.

One garbage truck of clothes is burned or sent to landfills every second.

Here are the economic, social and environmental impacts of ‘fast fashion’:

The economics

An expected 400 percent increase in world GDP by 2050 will mean even greater demand for clothing. One report found that addressing environmental and social problems created by the fashion industry would provide a $192 billion overall benefit to the global economy by 2030. The annual value of clothing discarded prematurely is more than $400 billion.

The environmental impacts

Apparel production is also resource- and emissions-intensive. Consider that: Making a pair of jeans (PDF) produces as much greenhouse gases as driving a car more than 80 miles. Discarded clothing made of non-biodegradable fabrics can sit in landfills for up to 200 years.  It takes 2 700 litres of water to make one cotton shirt, enough to meet the average person’s drinking needs for 2.5 years.

The societal impacts

Clothing production has helped spur growth in developing economies, but a closer look reveals a number of social challenges. For instance, according to non-profit Remake, 75 million people are making our clothes today, and 80 percent of apparel is made by young women ages 18 to 24. Garment workers, primarily women, in Bangladesh make about $96 per month. The government’s wage board suggested that a garment worker needs 3.5 times that amount in order to live a “decent life with basic facilities.” A 2018 U.S. Department of Labor report found evidence of forced and child labor in the fashion industry in Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Turkey, Vietnam and other countries.

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