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How Fast Fashion Adds to the Global Waste Problem

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

Story at-a-glance -

  • Fast fashion is a major contributor to the global waste problem, as clothing is the fastest growing category of waste. Canadians are now buying 400% more clothes, and Americans 500% more, than in the 1980s, and an estimated 85% of donated clothes end up in landfills
  • Many textiles don’t biodegrade well due to the synthetic fibers used. Chemicals and toxic dyes are also released, adding to our global water pollution problem
  • Several major fashion brands have started take-back programs that promise to recycle your old duds. However, only 1% are actually made into new clothes
  • Take-back programs also promote buying more new stuff by offering discounts on new purchases. Critics say these programs are greenwashing as they do nothing to address the root causes of our growing textile waste problem
  • Fast fashion retailers make too many clothes and sell them too inexpensively. The poor quality makes the clothes disposable, and a little back-end recycling is circumventing rather than addressing these issues

Shopping is often referred to as "retail therapy." Some suggest buying stuff, especially new clothes, can make you feel better. The problem is these positive emotions quickly vanish, while the excess clothes don't. In fact, fast fashion is a major contributor to the global waste problem, as clothing is now the fastest growing category of waste.

You may feel that you're doing your part by donating unwanted clothes to charity or dropping them off in a store take-back bin, but most of it ends up benefiting no one. The sad reality is that a large portion of these discarded clothes — an estimated 85% — simply end up in a landfill somewhere, either locally or overseas.

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