Fashion and our responsibility
What can each of us do to improve the world?
Fashion is now ‘fast fashion’. World textile production, led by large brands, has doubled in a decade and a half, and each year 100,000 million garments are produced. There are no more than two annual collections, but shops renew their presentations every few weeks, leading to a consumer rush and the closets have many more shirts, pants or jackets from which they will eventually be used.
The textile business, from the financial point of view, is going with a strong wind. In 2002 it billed a trillion dollars, in 2015 it reached 1.8 trillion, and by 2025, it is estimated to exceed 2.1 trillion, according to the Greenpeace report ‘Timeout for fast fashion’. The counterpart, at the consumer level, is that people in the Western world buy 60% more clothes than at the beginning of the century, but the useful life of the garments has been reduced by half.
The ecological impact of textile expansion
The environmental consequences of this textile explosion have a huge impact. This industry is the second most polluting in the world. Although large companies have eliminated many hazardous chemical elements from their factories, their production involves the generation of 3% of the world’s total carbon dioxide, some 850 million tons.
There is one element that is responsible for this increase: polyester. This fiber has contributed to the fact that the price of clothing is four or five times lower than two decades ago, until the ridiculous cases of shirts to four euros. Or less. 60% of garments are made from this material, which has generated three times more carbon dioxide than cotton (282,000 tonnes vs. 98,000 tonnes). And polyester has a serious problem: it does not degrade easily.
Each Spanish comes off seven kilos of clothing per year, or a total of 326,000 tons per year. Much more is in Germany or the United Kingdom, with a million tons per year, and the United States leads the fast fashion list with 13 million tons of garments thrown from the cabinets.
With good will, millions of people deposit it in NGO containers waiting for their shirts and jeans to have a second chance. But it’s not always like this. Statistics from a study by the University of Delaware indicate that 4.3 million tonnes of used clothing were exported from the US, Germany, the United Kingdom and other developed countries to India, Pakistan and Russia. These states are not the final destination, but are reprocessed and re-exported to Africa. But only 30% is used again: due to the loss of quality of garments, the remaining 70% is recycled as thermal insulation panels, rags, carpet filling or car boot fabrics.
But to sell used clothing to the Third World is hardly good business: the transfer in boats (that generate a contamination that exceeds in a thousand times the one of the cars) of hundreds of thousands of useless garments is so expensive that it does not work to manufacture Those products with recycled fabrics.
New clothes are so cheap that many organizations that sell them at secondhand markets see their business no longer running like a decade ago. If a jacket from Zara, Primark or H & M at the time of sale is scarcely more expensive than a used clothing store, many consumers do not think twice.
The same principle applies in Third World countries that used to be receivers of second-hand clothing. The arrival of these clothes destroyed their textile industries when protectionist barriers were lifted, but now they are more likely to buy new clothes imported from China than to buy used clothes or jackets.
“If the quality of clothing is worse and worse, the demand in international markets is decreasing, and recycling technology does not stop, we will have a crisis in the used clothing market. And there will be no place in the world to deposit so much old clothing, “said Alan Wheeler, director of the UK Textile Recycling Association, Waste Management World magazine.
What can I do?
- Giving away the clothes I no longer need or want
- Recycle in rags for cleaning
- Recycle for other uses: handbags, shopping bags, scarves …
- Lend clothes that you seldom use such us sports, parties, special ocasions…
- Stretch the life of the garments as much as possible without regard to fashion
- Caring for garments to last longer and learn how to saw a button
- Buy only what is really needed
- Buy garments from a single raw material, preferably from natural raw materials and avoid blends with nylon, polyester, polyamide (in addition your skin will thank you for that)
- Develop your own style and set aside fashions