SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF FAST FASHION
Fast fashion is mass production for a low cost, that allows consumers get access to the newest trends for a cheap price. But on the other hand, fashion production has not only negative impacts to our environment but it also causes a big damage on the lives of labor workers.
Work in Fast Fashion as a Modern Slavery
Working in fast fashion industry is also known as a modern slavery because of inhuman work practices. Most garment factories in Asia don’t have the same regulations as the factories in USA where labor, human rights and environmental protections are prioritized.
Approximately 170 million child labor are forced to work in fashion industry even though it’s forbidden by law. This happens mostly in poor Asians countries, where children are in the situations that they are unable to go to school and get an education so they choose to work because of their poverty. Fashion industry doesn’t require a high-skilled labor and for some tasks are children even better than adults. Employers prefer to hire children for cotton picking, because of their small fingers so they don’t damage crop.
In most of manufacturing countries like Bangladesh, China or India are garment workers paid minimum legal salary. But the minimum represents only half to a fifth of the living wage. It means that family can’t fulfil not even the basic needs like food, rent, education or healthcare. For comparison, in New York City for year 2022 is minimum wage for apparel industry workers $15.00 an hour and overtime after 40 hours is $22.50 an hour.
Unsafe work conditions
Some of the garment factories have the worst working conditions in modern ages. The worst industrial accident happened in 2013 when garment factory in Dhaka collapsed and 1,100 workers were killed and 2,600 were injured. Besides that, some garment factories in Asia don’t have ventilation and employees use dangerous chemicals during the process of clothing making so they are breathing in, or touching toxic substances, that are incredibly harmful for a human body.
Garment workers in Asian factories usually work 14 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. Total 96 hours per week is the normal working week for a garment worker. During the peak season they start work at 2 or 3 am and if they refuse, they are threatened to be fired. But anyway, their wages are so low that they can’t refuse to work long hours and overtime.
Environmental Impacts of Fast Fashion
Fashion industry is responsible for 10% human caused greenhouse gas emissions, 20% of global wastewater and 1.92 million tons of textile waste each year.
Water Consumption & Pollution
Fashion industry is the second largest consumer industry of water. It requires approximately 700 gallons to produce just one cotton shirt and about 2 000 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans. 2,6% of the global fresh water is used to produce cotton. Process when the fabric is dyed and printed is called “wet-processing” and it’s not only extremely water consuming but it’s also the main source of water pollution. During the textile processing is used over 8000 different synthetic materials and the major one is chemical dye. 20% of the global water pollution comes from textile treatment and dyes. Freshwater is contained with wastewater from fashion industry because is dumped back into the streams and rivers. It harms local communities, because usually they depend on the water and seafood. Almost 6 000 gallons of toxic waste is dumped into rivers by tanneries in Bangladesh every day.
1.92 million tones of textile waste is produced each year. The equivalent of 1 garbage truck of textiles is wasted every second. 5,2% of the waste in our landfills are textiles. Average single family in the western world throws away about 30 kg of clothing every year and only 15% of their clothes are donated or recycled. The rest goes directly to the landfill and the result is generating huge piles of textile waste. To synthetic fibers as a polyester or other synthetic fibers it can take up to 200 years to decompose. Synthetic fibers are used in 72% of produced clothing. When synthetic fabric begins to break down, they create “microfibers” and are spread through the natural environment. Even during washing process of clothing small pieces of textile are dropped to the water and microplastics enter the the ocean.
The Fashion Industry is responsible for 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, releasing 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. That’s more emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. If it continues at the same pace, the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions are predicted to increase by more than 50% by the year 2030. These emissions are created during all process of clothing making, supply chain, production to transport and shipping. Greenhouse gases are responsible for climate change and the fashion industry is one of the leading contributors to this global problem.
Consumerism as a Fuel for Fast Fashion
Consumerism become a phenomenon after the industrial revolution, when businesses started mass production and products were offered to the customers in a large scale of different kind of products for a cheap price. Fast fashion industry is the industry that benefits from these high-level demands of consumers. Consumers usually don’t realize that clothes they wear are causing unintentional harm to someone else. But we can make a cultural change by consuming less, buying second hand or investing to a timeless piece from sustainable designers. Fashion is reflection of ourselves. It reflects who we are and what we believe in. Fashion industry contributes to society by allowing us to show our creativity, express ourselves and our believes to the world.