You may have removed last season’s hot fashion trend from your closet, but the effect of that item still lingers, from the energy used in its production to its continued presence in one of the nation’s landfills. The total environmental impact of our outfit choices are a growing concern because buoyed by the rise of so-called fast fashion, we’re consuming and discarding more clothes than ever before.
In 2015, the last year for which the Environmental Protection Agency has data, the United States generated 11.9 million tons — or about 75 pounds per person — of textile waste, most of which ended up in landfills. That’s more than a 750 per cent increase since 1960. For reference, that’s nearly 10 times more than the increase in the country’s population over the same time period.
This growth in clothing waste coincides with the dominance of fast fashion brands such as H&M and Zara, whose business models are based on selling low-priced items at high volumes. Zara, for example, releases 20,000 new designs a year, according to a spokesman, unveiling new lines during micro seasons beyond the traditional winter/fall and summer/spring lines. The strategy is designed to encourage customers to shop regularly for new looks.
The company is in step with broader industry trends, which saw clothing production double between 2000 to 2014, according to a report released by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Over the same period, according to the report, the number of garments the average person purchased each year also increased by 60 percent. A separate study found that fast fashions are constructed so that they typically lastno more than 10wearings.
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