The $2.4 trillion apparel industry has evolved rapidly over the past 20 years. Cheap production and lowered costs for consumers along with the influence of social media, has produced an avalanche of cheap clothing. "Fast fashion" production is based on a model of ‘take-make-waste’, designed to be worn and discarded within a short period of time.
Textiles are disposed of in landfills or incinerated; apparel companies conservatively produce 100 billion garments per year; less than 1% of clothing is recycled; 40 million tons of textiles (87% of clothing) are disposed of in landfills or incinerated. The industry is responsible for 10% of all carbon emissions. Textile processing consumes 20% of global wastewater. It pollutes rivers, streams and ground water with high levels of pesticides and harsh chemicals, many of which are carcinogenic. 60% of all clothing is made of polyester and contains micro plastics. Washing garments made of polyester and other synthetics accounts for 35% of the ocean’s micro plastics.
To add insult to injury, fashion companies "greenwash" their clothing by making false claims of sustainable fabrics and methods of production. The true "sustainable" efforts made by brands and retailers are minimal and cannot possibly be scaled to the magnitude of their output.
Citizens alone are not able to regulate fast fashion. Government regulations must be implemented:
- Holding the fashion industry responsible for cutting carbon emissions to achieve alignment with the 1.5 degree pathway limiting global warming as set out by the 2015 Paris Agreement
- Requiring the fashion industry to be responsible for sustainably disposing of their waste materials and used clothing
- Halting the use of any and all virgin synthetic materials
- Requiring labeling of garments for transparency and traceability abiding by the Fair Trade Commission’s Green Guidelines for accuracy in claims related to sustainability
- Imposing a carbon tax on all clothing made from virgin synthetic materials
- Mandating every new clothes washing machine has a filter installed to capture plastic microfibers
- Restricting the manufacture, import and export of clothing containing harmful chemicals/substances
- Eliminating unfair practices for apparel workers working below minimum wage or for piecework in unsafe factories, and creating multilateral accountability that holds not only factories but brands liable for unsafe conditions and unpaid wages
- Banning the importation of clothing made with indentured servitude or child labor
- Educating consumers on how to effectively recycle used clothing
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