- $400 billion worth of clothing is wasted every year!
- One garbage truck of clothes is burned or sent to landfill every second.
- That’s enough to fill 1.5 Empire State buildings every day.
- And it’s $400 billion of wasted clothing every year.
- The average consumer bought 60% more cloths in 2014 than in 2000. But kept each item for half as long.
- The world’s growing middle class is also driving consumption. And a 400% rise in world GDP by 2050 is only going to increase demand.
- Making cloths uses a lot of the world’s resources. It takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt. That’s what one person drinks in 2.5 years.
- And making and washing one pair of jeans emits the same CO2 as driving 69 miles.
- The fashion industry also has a heavy human cost… Garment workers in Bangladesh earn less than $100 per month. Just 30% of what they need to live a decent life.
- There are initiatives to make our demand for clothing less damaging. Germany now reuses half of all used clothing.
- Scientists are developing new materials that demand less from the environment.
- And start-ups are encouraging consumers to rent, not buy clothes.
(Source: World Resources Institute)
Modeler : Sudhith Vidhush
How are you changing what you wear?
Think about how many sweaters, scarves and other clothes were given as gifts? How many times people wear them before throwing them out?
You will be surprised to hear probably far fewer than you think. One garbage truck of clothes is burned or sent to landfills every second!
Gone are the days when people would buy a shirt and wear it for years. In a world of accelerating demand for appeal, consumers want – and can increasingly afford – new clothing after wearing garments only a few times. Entire business models are built on the premise of “fast fashion,” providing cloths cheaply and quickly to consumer through shorter fashion cycles.
This linear fashion model of buying, wearing and quickly discarding clothes negatively impacts people and planet’s resources.
Here’s look at the economic, social and environmental implications:
According to the Ellen MCArthur Foundation, clothing production has approximately doubled in the last 15 years, driven by a growing middle-class population across the globe and increased per capita sales in developed economies. An expected 400 percent increase in world GDP by 2050 will mean even greater demand for clothing.
This could be an opportunity to do better. 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 permanently is more than $400 billion.
It takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt.
Enough water for one person to drink for 21/2 years.
The Environmental impacts
Apparel production is also resource and emissions-intensive. Consider that:
- Making a pair of jeans produces as much greenhouse gases as driving a car more than 80 miles.
- Discarding clothing made of non-biodegradable fabrics can sit in landfills for up to 200 years.
- It takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt, enough to meet the average person’s drinking needs for two-and-a-half years.
The Societal impacts
Clothing production has helped spur growth in developing economies, but a closer look reveals a number of social challenges.
- According to non-profit remake, 75 million people are making our cloths today, and 80% of apparel is made by young women between the ages of 18 and 24.
- Garment workers, primarily women, in Bangladesh make about $96 per month. The government’s wage boards 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.
- Rapid consumption of apparel and the need to deliver on short fashion cycles stresses production resources, often resulting in supply chains that put profits ahead of human welfare.
Designer: Nisansala Deegala
Model: Harini Silva
So, what do we do?
So, what does a more sustainable apparel industry look like, and how do we get there?
We’re starting to see some early signs of an industry in transition. Business models based on longevity, such as Rent the Runway and Gwynnie Bee, are the beginnings of an industry that supports reuse instead of rapid and irresponsible consumption.
Just as Netflix reimagined traditional film rental services and Lyft disrupted transportation, we are beginning to see option for consumers to lease clothing rather than buy and stash them in their closets. Ideally, an “end of ownership” in apparel will be implemented in a way that considers impacts of jobs, communities and the environment.
This is only the beginning of a radical transformation required. Apparel companies will increasingly have to confront the elephant in the boardroom and decouple their business growth from resource use. To meet tomorrow’s demand for clothing in innovative ways; companies will need to do what they have never done before: design, test and invest in business models that reuse cloths and minimize their useful life. For apparel companies, it’s time to disrupt or be disrupted.
By: Cameron Blake
Image Curtsey: Eranga Pilimatalawwe