The fashion industry has a huge impact on the environment. New analysis reveals it will take less than a year for the amount of clothing in landfills, to equal the distance to the moon.
- 64% of all garments produced globally each year end up in landfills.
- 94 million kg worth of single-use outfits are bought every year with 1 in 2 people throwing away unwanted clothes directly into the bin instead of reselling them or repurposing them.
- Man-made fabrics like polyester and nylon can take up to 200 years to break down in landfills, in comparison linen takes two weeks to break down naturally.
- Index included reveals the best and worst materials used in fashion.
- Interactive visual tool created for Earth Day demonstrates shocking statistics on how much fashion industry waste is added to landfills every few seconds.
Childrenswear brand FIVE OF US have examined and created a visualized interactive page for Earth Day that demonstrates just how much the fashion industry contributes to landfill each year. The interactive page compares the volume of clothing in landfills to some of the world’s most well-known landmarks. Moreover, the latest statistics reveal shocking information. Of the 32 billion garments the fashion industry produces yearly, 64% will end up in landfills.
Reducing Fast Fashion Waste
This gross amount of waste is due in part to the 94m kg worth of single-use outfits bought every year and partially due to the 1 in 2 people who throw unwanted clothes directly into the bin1 instead of reselling them or re-purposing them; because of this, researchers estimate the fashion industry (and its supply chain) is the planet’s 3rd largest polluter. That’s after food and construction 1.
As you scroll through the interactive and educational page, there’s a question for users. “If we stacked up all the fashion landfills created in a 12-month period, how tall of a ladder would you need to climb to the top?” On-screen are statistics on how the fashion industry waste compares to landmarks. For example, the Eiffel Tower, Burj Khalifa, Mount Everest, The International Space Station, and even the moon. It gives context to the amount of waste.
Space? That’s because the amount of clothing that reaches landfills every 6 hours is equivalent to the distance from Earth to the International Space Station.
A Message From Five of Us Fashion Director
Queralt Ferrer, experienced fashion director and founder of Five of Us commented saying: “At FIVE OF US, we don’t pretend to have the solution to the problem that is sustainability in the fashion industry, but we do believe that our “made to order” model is one responsible step in the right direction to reduce the problem of overproduction.”
“While the fashion industry as a whole contributes more than a trillion dollars worth of waste to landfills every year, we rarely talk about how children’s fashion contributes to this. I think one of the key areas missing in sustainability in fashion conversation is education. The next generation needs to know how to shop and consume with sustainability in mind. People throw-away more than 3.15 billion articles of children’s clothing every year. Almost half the amount is menswear and a third of women’s 2. It’s a huge problem. This is why we believe that it is never too early to start educating our children about sustainability. Also about where their clothing comes from (and ends up).”
How can the “Made to Order” model help solve the sustainability issue in fashion?
Founder Queralt says “clearly, by only producing what has been ordered, you ensure there is no over-production and that should result in lower waste. This is a small step within the wider issue, but every bit sums up. We focus on quality and longevity. Also aiming to design pieces that will last longer. Pieces that will be able to be passed on, re-purposed, which again, will contribute further to lower waste and better impact on the environment.”
“Furthermore, more contemporary, less seasonal, and more versatile collections across the year is something that all the industry could think more of. At Five of Us, we create designs that kids can dress up or down. Either to go and play in the park or to attend a special occasion venue.”
Another issue for the fashion industry is how long many of the materials take to decompose.
Five of Us have created a materials index to show the best and worst materials when it comes to sustainability.
The index ranks the best and worst materials. The worst scored the highest score, and the best scored the lowest score. Sourcing sustainable fabrics like cotton, silks, and recycled fabrics breaks down naturally over time. However, most brands often turn to cheaper fabrics to make lower-cost garments. Unfortunately for the environment, this can be catastrophic. Acrylic fibers such as polyester and nylons can take anywhere from 40 to 200 years to break down in landfills. That leaves a carbon footprint of up to 11.53kg of CO2e per 2sqm 3.
“Sustainability goes beyond the raw materials or how we produce them. It is about putting it at the core of everything you do and the educational efforts you build around it. Because when you really value the clothes you have, they will last longer. And, in turn, it will have a positive impact on the environment. This is why our collections are based on a made-to-order model, use responsibly sourced materials, and are custom-designed to last.”
Source: FIVE OF US press release