Claudio (449) notes that the global fashion industry generates approximately 100 billion garments annually. These garments feed the customers' insatiable appetite for new clothes. Due to globalization, people can produce clothing at affordable prices which makes consumers dispose of some of these clothing. Fast fashion provides affordable clothing which mostly targets women. People refer to it as fast clothing because its availability is equivalent to fast food. Increase in customer clothing consumption rate leads to the production of textile, leather and apparel waste. There is a close connection between pollution and fashion industry, and this is what this paper purposes to look at. The paper aims to answer the following research questions: How does the fashion industry contribute to pollution and wastage? To what extent does the fashion industry contribute to unnecessary wastage? How widespread is fashion wastage? The paper analyzes the extent of wastes from the fashion industry, modes of recycling, reusing and refashioning as the essential strategies for managing wastes from the fashion industry.
Crewe (25) agrees that fashion plays an essential role in people's lives. Through fashion, people can understand the social and economic status of others. Fashion determines which part of the society a person comes from. Social expectations and cultural norms drive fashion. They are the symbolic representations combined with seasonal changes and the consumption habits which coerce people to purchase new clothing. The media directly influences fashion by creating a desire to "must haves" for every season. There are fashion programs in the mainstream media, fashion magazines, and social media which directly influence people's consumption. Ladies, for instance, have an insatiable appetite when it comes to fashion. Most people go for affordable clothing with an objective of filling their closets. The situation has enabled the fashion industry to develop a terrible reputation which does not only outsource production to the world's lowest wage economies but also exploits human capital. In the United Kingdom, fast fashion comprises about one-fifth of the entire fashion market. Claudio (443) asserts that changes in fashion stages facilitate the demand for new clothing. It means that people frequently purchase new fashion and discard the old, yet usable clothes which have not been used on multiple occasions. Many people are interested in the 'replacement life' of fashion, meaning that products are discarded even if it is still functional.
Fashion leaves a pollution footprint. The pollution is evident in each step of the clothing life cycle. The life cycle of clothing from production to distribution and consumption has occupational and environmental hazards. For instance, polyester - a component which is widely used in the manufacture of fiber- is made from petroleum. Claudio (450) also notes that the demand for fibers such as polyester has doubled up in the last 15 years. The process of manufacturing polyester and other synthetic textiles is consumes much energy since it requires large amounts of crude oil. The process involves discharging emissions such as volatile organic compounds, acid gases such as hydrogen chloride and particulate matter. These cause respiratory diseases. The polyester manufacturing plants discharge volatile solvents into wastewater, generating enormous wastes. Polyesters also shed microfibers which contribute to increasing levels of plastics in the oceans. The Microfibers can easily penetrate through wastewater treatment plants and sewage into the waterways since they are not biodegradable. They pose a grave threat to aquatic life. There are also creatures such as plankton which eat microfibers. Through this, Crewe (30) concludes that they find their way to the food chain because the fish consume them, and humans eat these fish.
The production of garments also involves using prints, vibrant colors and fabric finishes which are appealing. The prints, vibrant colors and fabric finishes use toxic chemicals. For instance, textile dyeing is considered to be the second largest contaminator of clean water worldwide. It is necessary to eradicate poisonous chemicals from the supply chain due to the pollution impact it has in the fashion manufacturing industry. It is critical for fashion industries to eliminate toxic chemicals from their supply chains because many fashion products contain hazardous chemicals.
There are also toxic chemicals which are used in the agricultural production of cotton. Farmers use pesticides and high levels of water to prevent crop failure. The use of pesticides affects the environment since rainwater washes some of these pesticides, finding their way into the waterways which communities use for domestic purposes. The case is typical in developing countries. There have been reported cases of congenital disabilities among Indian Cotton farmers Ait-Alla (16). Most cotton which is currently grown worldwide is also genetically modified to increase production. Genetically modification also improves yield and reduces the use of pesticides. There are possibilities for development of complications such as the appearance of "superweeds" which are resilient to ordinary pesticides. The superweeds need to be treated with more lethal pesticides which are detrimental to humans and livestock.
There are high rates of textile wastage which is a consequence of fast fashion. Many people purchase more clothing but don't keep them long. The wardrobes in developed countries are saturated with clothes. For the retailers to sell more products, they must convince the consumers by constant newness so that they dispose of items which are no longer fashionable.
Waste Disposal Strategies
Wastes are usually generated when consumers dispose of unwanted textiles or clothing into waste collection facilities. There are possibilities of these wastes causing significant damage to the environment such as a landfill. For instance, synthetic fibers do not decompose. Inorganic materials have devastating effects on the environment. Torres (430) identifies the most effective strategy applicable to waste management which is 3R-Reuse, Reduce and Recycle. Reusing involves using the product again for the same purpose through resale or redistribution. Recycle involves shredding the materials to generate new fabrics applied in producing other products such as carpets, sound insulation panels, and industrial filling. According to Shen (6239), some designers are currently working on proving that recycled materials make an elegant outfit to promote sustainability. Recycling reduces pressure on raw materials and helps in tacking the growing problem of waste management from the fashion industry.
Most industries employ incineration as a way of disposing of unsafe, unwanted and excess garments. However, it is not the best way to eliminate the clothing wastes since garments contain hazardous materials and chemicals which impact air, chemical and water pollution.
Shoppers can reduce the environmental cost of fast fashion by selecting eco-friendly fabric. There are garments which are labeled as being made from natural fibers, and they are better than synthetic fiber. Threads which are spun, woven, knitted, dyed and finished have different environmental impacts. Consumers need to choose organic fibers than non-organic fabrics due to the chemicals used in growing the fibers. Consumers need to keep their clothing in use for more extended periods of time instead of purchasing new stuff which negatively impacts the environment.
Ait-Alla, Abderrahim, et al. "Robust production planning in fashion apparel industry under demand uncertainty via conditional value at risk." Mathematical Problems in Engineering 2014 (2014).Claudio, Luz. "Waste couture: Environmental impact of the clothing industry." Environmental health perspectives 115.9 (2007): A449.
Crewe, Louise. "Ugly beautiful? Counting the cost of the global fashion industry." GEOGRAPHY-LONDON- 93.1 (2008): 25.
Dissanayake, D. G. K., and Pammi Sinha. "Sustainable waste management strategies in the fashion industry sector." Int J Environ Cult Econ Soc Sustain 8.1 (2012): 77-90.
Shen, Bin. "Sustainable fashion supply chain: Lessons from H&M." Sustainability 6.9 (2014): 6236-6249.
Torres, Ana Laura, and Miguel Angel Gardetti. Sustainability in Fashion and Textiles : Values, Design, Production and Consumption. Routledge, 2013. EBSCOhost, 18.104.22.168/login?url=http%3a%2f%2fsearch.ebscohost.com%2flogin.aspx%3fdirect%3dtrue%26db%3dnlebk%26AN%3d760655%26site%3deds-live.
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