Five Facts Summarizing Fashion's Impact on the Environment

  • Today, an estimated 69% of clothes are made from plastic. This includes synthetics like polyester, elastane, nylon and acrylic.
      • Textiles are currently the most significant contributor to microplastic pollution, far exceeding even car tires (Boucher, J. and Friot, D. 2017).
      • Domestic laundering sheds anywhere between 640,000 to 1,500,000 plastic microfibers, of which many easily pass through wastewater treatment plants and get released into oceans (De Falco, F., Di Pace, E., Cocca, M. et al.).
    1. The fashion industry is on track to overshoot its 2015 Paris Agreement target greenhouse gas emissions twofold
        • Synthetic fabrics are petroleum-based and chemically treated and have a large carbon footprint
        • We’re facing staggering overproduction (as exemplified by the more recent success and valuations of fast fashion brands as well as the fact that only 60% of clothing is sold at full price) 
      1. Around 20% of wastewater worldwide comes from fabric dyeing and treatment.
          • Fashion is a water-intensive industry, using about 21 trillion gallons of water annually according to CNN Style
          • This comes into play through various stages and processes, from bleaching raw materials to prepare for dyeing, dyeing fabric and garments, washing with fabric softeners or other chemicals to reduce wrinkles.
        1. The average US consumer purchases one mid-priced item of clothing per week, consequently contributing to 8% of all waste that ends up in a landfill
            • There is a negative correlation between garment prices and consumption. 
            • US waste is shipped out to smaller foreign countries like Malaysia and Indonesia so that we never see the impact of our hyper-consumerism in our own backyard
          1. Although fashion is one of the most labor dependant industries, 98% of garment workers (mostly women) are not paid a livable wage, meaning they are caught in systemic poverty and cannot meet their most basic needs
              • Hidden supply chains mean large corporations can continue to profit off of cheap foreign labor without the accountability of paying livable wages
              • Large fashion companies are able to manipulate factories overseas into lowering their rates through short term contracts and the constant threat of taking their business to a competitor