6 Environmental Impacts of Fast Fashion

The triple planetary crisis is being fueled by the pollution, waste, and emissions of fast fashion. Every new season, new styles of clothes come out with the latest fashion trend, and the older clothing is thrown away, leading to some environmental impacts of fast fashion.

Although circularity in the textile value chain and sustainable fashion is achievable, consumers worldwide are buying more clothes than ever before and wearing them for shorter periods than ever before, discarding clothing as quickly as fashions change.

An endeavor to create a world with no waste is being led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In keeping with this aspirational approach, UNEP has teamed up with spoken word artist Beatrice Kariuki from Kenya to highlight high-impact industries where consumers can truly make a difference.

Kariuki states in the video, “We need circular industries where old looks are made fresh. “More reuse, less packing. lasting threads.

According to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, a UNEP partner, a truckload of unwanted textiles is disposed of or burned every second. In the meantime, it’s thought that individuals are purchasing 60% more clothing and wearing it for 50% less time.

Plastic fibers are causing pollution in the oceans, wastewater pollution, poisonous dyes, and the underpayment of labor. Although the environmental costs of fast fashion are increasing, scientists argue there is another way: a circular economy for textiles.

What Exactly is Fast Fashion?

To capitalize on consumer demand, “fast fashion” refers to garment designs that are quickly transferred from the runway to retail outlets. The fashions seen in Fashion Week catwalk shows or worn by celebrities frequently serve as the inspiration for the collections. Fast fashion enables average consumers to affordably buy the hottest new look or the next big thing.

Fast fashion spread as a result of more affordable, quick manufacturing and shipping processes, customers’ growing appetite for contemporary fashions, and consumers’ increased purchasing power—particularly among young people—to satisfy these desires for fast gratification.

Fast fashion is posing a threat to the established clothing labels’ practice of releasing new collections and lines on a systematic, seasonal basis. as a result of all of the aforementioned factors, fast-fashion retailers frequently launch new products several times in a single week.

What caused Fast Fashion?

We need to go back in time a little bit to understand how rapid fashion came to be. The 1800s saw a slowdown in fashion. You had to gather your supplies of leather or wool, prepare them, weave the materials, and then create the clothing.

As with the sewing machine, new technology was introduced during the Industrial Revolution. Making clothes grew quicker, simpler, and less expensive. Several dressmaking businesses arose to serve the middle classes.

These dressmaking businesses frequently employed groups of garment workers or employees from home. Sweatshops started to appear at this time, along with several well-known safety problems. The Triangle Shirtwaist Industry Fire in New York, which started in 1911, was the first major garment factory accident. 146 garment workers—many of them young female immigrants—lost their lives as a result.

There was still a difference between high fashion and high street in the 1960s and 1970s when youth were developing new trends and using clothing as a means of self-expression.

Low-cost fashion peaked in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Fast-fashion businesses like H&M, Zara, and Topshop took over the high street while online shopping boomed.

These companies swiftly and inexpensively replicated the styles and design components from the leading fashion houses. It’s simple to understand how the phenomenon spread given that everyone has access to on-trend clothing whenever they want.

Environmental Impacts of Fast Fashion

1. Overuse of Water

The water used by the industrial sector to operate factories and clean goods is consumed by the fashion industry at a rate of one-tenth. To put this into perspective, one kilogram of cotton requires 10,000 liters of water to manufacture, or roughly 3,000 liters of water to produce one cotton shirt.

Additionally, the harmful chemicals used in textile dyeing wind up in our oceans. This procedure contributes about 20% of the world’s wastewater, which builds up over time.

Given the number of factories that have relocated abroad, they may be in nations with lax environmental rules, allowing untreated water to enter the oceans. Unfortunately, the wastewater that is produced is highly toxic and, in many circumstances, cannot be processed to make it safe again.

2. Plastic Microfibers

The main culprits for introducing plastic microfibers into our waters are synthetic materials. To be precise, these synthetic materials make up about 35% of all microplastics.

Producers use potentially low-quality materials to further reduce the price. For instance, a lot of fibers, like polyester, are made of plastic and tend to emit far more carbon dioxide than cotton. Furthermore, until a lot of time has passed, plastic in the ocean degrades slowly.

When plastic ultimately decomposes, a poisonous chemical is produced that harms marine habitats. Because they can’t be removed, these plastic microfibers cause several health problems by entering the aquatic food chain and eventually reaching humans.

They can get into our ocean in a number of ways, but the washing machine is the most common one. Although it is clear that the washing machine has become a need in our homes, it is still crucial to wash full loads whenever it is practical to do so in order to reduce unnecessary water usage.

3. Using Viscose

Viscose was first used in cellulosic fiber in 1890 as a less expensive substitute for cotton in manufacturing. The commonly used cellulosic fiber rayon, also known as viscose, is created from wood pulp.

The use of hazardous chemicals and the unethical procurement of the material have severely negative consequences on the ecosystem. Others are concerned about effects other than environmental ones as a result of the companies use of harmful chemicals.

For instance, the carbon disulfide used to produce viscose fibers has deadly health impacts on both employees and the environment. Thus, it may not come as a surprise that the manufacture of viscose generates more greenhouse gas emissions than that of cotton.

4. Excessive Clothing Consumption

The value of clothing may decline in the minds of consumers as a result of how reasonably priced it is and how new trends tempt people to buy more. According to the latest statistics, 62 million metric tons of clothing were consumed worldwide as of 2019. The amount that our civilization has consumed through the years has increased dramatically in recent decades.

Even though it might be good for our economy, fewer things wind up in landfills since lower-quality clothing wears out quickly and necessitates the purchase of more new clothing. There are several problems, but the two biggest ones are the heaps of clothing in landfills and the burning of garments.

A sizeable section of the population chooses to trash their clothes rather than donate them, whether it’s because they’ve simply outgrown them or because they’re out of fashion. Additionally, because there are so many cutouts for the garment, a lot of materials are wasted because they can only be used once for that particular type of production.

57% of all used clothing is thrown away, and when landfills fill up, the rubbish is transferred to a place where it will be burned. People who reside in neighboring towns are at risk for many public health and environmental hazards as a result of this operation since burning landfill releases toxic materials or significant quantities of dangerous gases.

In spite of filters being developed by modern technology to trap the pollutants, they continue to exist and are frequently converted into toxic substances that later return to landfills and poison our air.

5. Dependence on Non-Renewable Energy

The majority of fast fashion businesses run their production facilities on fossil fuels. The energy sources burn, releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. When emissions enter the atmosphere, they change its makeup and the planet’s capacity to keep its surface at temperatures that support life.

The earth naturally absorbs sunlight, produces heat, heats its surface, gathers more energy, and releases it into space. Emissions alter the process because they exchange heat more quickly with the sun’s radiation. Through the process of producing heat, they also re-filter extra environmental energy.

As the temperature of the Earth rises over time as a result of greenhouse gas emissions, ecological deterioration follows. Fast fashion has a big impact on climate change because it contributes almost 10% of world emissions.

Our planet will experience harsh droughts, agricultural limits, forced migration, and other issues with ecological stability if the sector keeps producing significant amounts of air pollutants. Fortunately, there are steps that customers can take to lessen the negative effects.

6. Cruelty to Animals

Fast fashion has an effect on animals as well. In the wild, land and marine creatures alike consume the poisonous dyes and microfibers released in streams through the food chain with disastrous results. Additionally, animal welfare is endangered when materials made from animals, such as wool, leather, and fur, are utilized in fashion.

For instance, countless scandals show that actual fur, such as cat and dog fur, is frequently misrepresented as faux fur to naive customers. The fact is that genuine fur is now more affordable to make and purchase than synthetic fur since so much of it is being produced in fur farms in appalling conditions.


By thrifting your clothing instead of purchasing it brand new, you may make your closet more environmentally friendly. Additionally, buyers can fix damaged or worn-out clothing to increase its lifespan and reduce landfill trash. Last but not least, you can lessen the impact of contemporary trends on your purchases while still maintaining a varied wardrobe.


Editor at EnvironmentGo! | providenceamaechi0@gmail.com | + posts

A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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