fashionwaste

How to cut fashion waste

Reuse and repair in the era of fast fashion

In order to cut fashion waste, the French government will pay a repair bonus to help people with their damaged clothes and shoes. An amount from 6€ to 25€ will cover the repairing cost of garments in workshops or cobblers who will be part of the scheme.

Indeed, an alarming amount of clothes end up in landfills. Since fashion brands keep putting out new garments in huge quantities, governments must find solutions.

The point on fashion waste

The news sounds really great! But let’s consider a few things:

Would anyone throw away clothes of value? Of course, not. Or, at least, it is extremely rare. The garments ending up in the garbage bin aren’t pieces made to last but clothing intentionally made for that purpose. Buy, wear and toss. That is mass production: low prices, poor quality and slaves for manufacturing (individuals no one cares about because if they did, they would stop buying certain products).

In fact, over the last twenty years, purchasing fast-fashion clothing and shoes has become popular. Rich and poor people enjoy it. For the rich is a whim, and for the low-income a necessity. But both love purchasing products that last like a bag of chips.

Product longevity is one of the principles that attests to sustainability. What demonstrates product longevity?
Good design
Quality materials
Skilled craftsmanship

What if the repair cost is higher than the average price tag?

Now, it makes sense to put a patch on the bleeding, but common sense should guide human choices. Therefore, can we cut fashion waste without stopping fast fashion? It doesn’t seem likely. In fact, curing the illness without eliminating the cause isn’t a good strategy.

Here comes the second point, if the French government wants to fight fashion waste, why did they allow the Shein runway in Paris? It may sound like a joke, but in the case of ultra-fast fashion, the repair costs would be higher than the price tag! Does it make any sense?

On how to cut fashion waste, there’s no easy solution. But for sure, we need a more radical approach.

Fashion waste visible from space

Atacama Desert: fast fashion’s disaster view via satellite

Fashion waste is now visible from space. Indeed SkyFi, an American startup that provides high-resolution satellite photos and recordings, has confirmed a giant pile of clothes in the Atacama Desert, Chile. And so, it happens that a piece of news released in 2021 is brought back, highlighting human inactivity and carelessness towards the waste we put out.

The Atacama Desert and the cost of fast fashion

The Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world, is in Chile. Now it is an island of discarded clothing, including Christmas sweaters and ski boots, piling up in the desert. Indeed, Chile is a hub for secondhand and unsold clothing ending up there from all over the world. USA, Europe and Asia. Approximately 59,000 tons of garments arrive there every year. Clothing merchants buy part of it, but the majority, about 39,000 tons, end up in rubbish dumps in the desert. 
You can read our exploration here.

This is via the SkyFi website:
“The satellite image that we ordered of the clothes pile in Chile’s Atacama Desert really puts things into perspective. The size of the pile and the pollution it’s causing are visible from space, making it clear that there is a need for change in the fashion industry. Our mission to make Earth observation data easy and transparent is vital to identifying and addressing problems like this one.” 

Fashion industry vs change

On the one hand, it’s good to have another viewpoint on what is going on with fashion waste. That perspective about the earth from a distant observation is appalling. On the other, almost two years have gone by since the first news release, but nothing has changed over time! So, were we waiting for a satellite view to make a change?

The fashion industry, a capitalistic system based on the exploitation of people and the planet, has a huge responsibility. Despite the giant pile of clothes being confirmed, CEOs will not change. The fashion system will not change. But people have the power in their brains and wallet!

Today is World Environment Day, and the big news is that fashion waste is visible from space! Are we waiting for a satellite view from Mars to start moving a finger? Or is it time to educate ourselves and have an independent thought?

Fashion waste recycling

An urgent issue every fashion designer must confront

March 18th was Global Recycling Day, highlighting the challenge of waste recycling, which is deeply connected to the fashion industry. As a matter of fact, recycling is crucial for a circular economy and circular fashion too.

These international days aim to raise awareness on important matters. Unfortunately, we celebrate something but tend to forget the issue the day after.

Fashion industry & waste

As widely highlighted in our previous posts, the fashion industry is part of the waste problem. According to Earth.org, of the 100 billion garments produced each year, 92 million tons end up in landfills. To give a prompt idea, this means that the equivalent of a rubbish truck full of clothes ends up in landfill sites every second.

Waste colonialism

Waste is a global issue. In fact, that is the byproduct of our economic system – capitalism. A structure based on overproduction and exploitation. However, the civilised global north found a way to get rid of it. Because we don’t want to see our garbage. Also, in front of problems, we prefer to close our eyes.
So, how does the global north get rid of waste? By dumping the problem in the global south! In case you missed the news, please, read what happens in the Atacama desert in Chile. Or in Ghana, Africa.
As we can see, Northern countries, the rich and civilised ones, are still perpetuating colonialism. Specifically, waste colonialism.

Recycling waste

“Global Recycling Foundation” promotes the idea of considering waste as an opportunity:

“Every year, the Earth yields billions of tons of natural resources and at some point, in the not too distant future, it will run out.
That’s why we must think again about what we throw away – seeing not waste, but opportunity.”

Waste recycling in fashion industry

First, in order to reduce waste, we need to consume less, much less! But also, we must find solutions for the tons of discarded clothing already shipped to Africa and Chile.

Most importantly, we expect every fashion designer and every company to do their bit and hold themselves accountable. Recycling and upcycling must become part of the plan for the fashion industry. Now!

There’s no time to waste!

The land of waste

How the fashion industry dumps the problem into Africa

A land of waste: the unbelievable amount of discarded clothing dumped in Africa regularly. About three million pieces of clothing every year. Endless layers of textiles form mountains high of fashion waste polluting the land and waters. A terrifying sight which shows the destruction the western world perpetrates towards nature.

Fast-fashion waste recycling?

People think the clothes discarded into the recycling container (the yellow one here in Italy) are reused. Usually, charities are in charge of these garments. But fast fashion items have poor quality. So, in the end, large quantities can’t be resold and end up in a massive toxic blob in Africa.

Y2K: the overproduction era

Since 2000 global clothing production has doubled, but the quality is lower and lower. As we already addressed, brands accelerated the overproduction model. At the same time, they promoted overconsumption, kicking off the toxic cycle.
Brands overproduce up to 40% every season.

Waste shipped to Africa: the western solution!

In west Africa, everyday cargos arrive full of dirty clothes, and most get there in unwearable condition. In Ghana, a dumping ground for textiles, they call them the “dead white man’s clothes.” Moreover, Western garments are so cheap that local manufacturers can’t compete (source ABC.net.au).

The city of Accra has to find a place to dispose of 160 tons of textile waste every day! Liz Ricketts, a circular economy advocate, has spent about ten years documenting what happens in Ghana.
During the monsoon season, the heavy rains drag the textiles into the sea. Then they return to the shore buried in the sand.

In Accra, there’s no room left to throw away clothing.

We recommend to watch this video by ABC News:

Video by ABC News

If waste is the byproduct of a fashion industry based on an overproduction pattern, consumers play an active part, too. Indeed, they contribute to this environmental disaster with their consumption habits. Perhaps years ago, information was lacking, but now it’s everywhere! Everyone can understand the downside of cheap clothing.

There are people underpaid to make cheap clothes and, at the end of the cycle, people who make 4 dollars per day to collect fashion waste. Slaves indeed!

The western world’s solution was to ship the problem to Africa! But that has generated a land of waste, which we leave to the coming generations.

Fashion brands are responsible, but so we are if we don’t change consumption habits.

The island in the desert

Talking about the cost of fast fashion and the madness of disposable items can be upsetting and frustrating. No one wants to listen.

We could define it as a hidden cost, assuming people do not see it directly. Except that there’s nothing hidden anymore. And so, we call it the true cost because it happens before our eyes. Although, people refuse to see it intentionally.

To illustrate the abnormity, perhaps a visual image helps awaken the conscience more than words.

Atacama desert in Chile - fast fashion leftovers
Atacama desert in Chile – fast fashion leftovers

Here, in front of your eyes, is the Atacama desert in Chile, the driest desert in the world. And that is an island of discarded clothing, including Christmas sweaters and ski boots, piling up in the desert.

Chile is a hub for secondhand and unsold clothing coming from all over the world. USA, Europe and Asia. Approximately 59,000 tons of garments arrive there every year. Clothing merchants buy part of it, but the majority, about 39,000 tons, end up in rubbish dumps in the desert.

That happens because those garments contain chemicals and are not biodegradable, therefore not accepted in the municipal landfill.

We wonder what’s going to happen over time.
Do you still feel ok with fast fashion and disposable goods?

On Monday, we posted about the need to shift our consumption habits. After reading this, the sense of urgency becomes imperative. It doesn’t need any further explanation.

Educating ourselves towards thoughtful consumption habits is fundamental.
If brands don’t produce items made to last, we don’t buy from them!
Stop overconsuming. Stop purchasing disposable items. That is how we bring our contribution.

We know that expecting a change from brands is an illusion, and it’s just a way to exclude ourselves from the game. If we pretend we do not play an active role, we hide our responsibilities.

On the contrary, we have to educate ourselves in order to become conscious and make intentional choices.

Break the loop. Take action now!