Written by: Angie Kung
Fast fashion is becoming a staple in our wardrobe thanks to its affordability and attainability. It's usually bought only to be disposed of soon after. Fast fashion is a cheap alternative for trendy, expensive-looking brands. You can find fast fashion being sold at well-known retailers such as Forever 21, H&M, Fashion Nova, Primark and more.
Mimicking the designs of clothing you would see at a runway or high-end store, these clothes are often created in mass quantities with environmentally harmful materials. Not only is fast fashion damaging our environment, but also the thousands of vulnerable workers trying to meet the demands of consumers.
How it affects our environment
The impacts of fast fashion on our environment is highly concerning. The toxic textile dyes used in fast fashion disrupt the ecosystem, cause illness in animals, affect the growth rates of plants, and prevent water from being safe for recreational uses.
Polyester is a common synthetic material used in fast fashion clothing. It can be traced to petrolulem, a fossil fuel contributing to air pollution and CO2 emissions once burned. Dangerous toxins such as carcinogens and microplastics are also released as polyester is formed, possibly increasing the risk of cancer and posing a threat to animals that may mistake it as food. It’s clear that these are not only deadly to our environment, but humans and animals as well. When fast fashion is produced, everyone's health is at stake. As a non-renewable resource, it cannot decompose naturally which further stresses our environment with its longevity. Other environmentally draining materials used in the fashion industry include cotton and leather.
It’s estimated that 13 million tons of clothing are dumped each year. It’s unfortunate that a large percentage of those items could have been recycled and reused instead. Fast fashion clothes are made using poor quality materials and are easy to damage. As a result, they tend to be thrown out at higher rates. Fast fashion textiles only help form even more waste.
The Labor Behind It
The labor behind all these clothes comes at a devastating cost. Exposure to the many dangerous substances compromises the health and safety of workers.
Additionally, there is little regulation in fast fashion factories, leading to a dangerous environment for workers. The Ranza Plaza building collapse in 2013 is a painful reminder of this; it was revealed that the cause of the collapse was faulty construction done on the top floor. Floor after floor, people were crushed and broken by everything in the levels above them. This occurred as a result of illegal construction practices, and over 1,000 people had to pay the price for it. Unfortunately, the earnings of workers in the textile industry are an issue in itself. A mere 2% of laborers are rewarded a living wage for the hard work and long hours they endure.
When fast fashion is produced, the quality of life for many is compromised, including yours.