Fast fashion clothes are thrown out by customers every year and this has an extremely negative impact on the environment. In addition, a very small percentage of discarded clothes are recycled as it is an extremely time-consuming job, the BBC concludes.
In fact, according to research by sociologist Sophie Woodward at the University of Manchester, the clothes in the wardrobe of the women she studied are, on average, 12 inactive.
About 85 percent of textiles discarded in the United States – up from 13 million garments in 2017 – end up in landfills or incinerated. An average American throws away an estimated 37 pounds of clothing a year. Worldwide, 93 million tons of textile waste are generated each year – by 2030, 134 million tons are expected to be disposed of.
“The current fashion industry uses a large amount of non-renewable resources, including kerosene, which is mainly used for short-term wear,” said Chetna Prajapati, who is studying sustainable textile manufacturing methods at Loughborough University in the UK.
Furthermore, the fashion industry is responsible for ten percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, with textile production alone emitting an estimated 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases a year. In addition, a lot of clean water is needed to produce textiles: the fashion industry is responsible for twenty percent of global wastewater production.
However, we buy more clothes than ever before: an average consumer now buys 60 percent more clothes than 15 years ago. Globally, about 56 million tons of clothing are purchased annually, which is expected to increase to 93 million tons by 2030 and 160 million tons by 2050.
But only 12 percent of clothing is recycled – in contrast, paper, glass, and plastic PET bottles are 66, 27, and 29 percent recycled in the United States. Much of the recycled polyester currently used by leading fashion brands comes from plastic bottles and not old clothes.
One of the biggest problems with textile recycling is that garments are made up of a combination of several types of natural and artificial fabrics. This makes them difficult to separate and recycle efficiently. Manual sorting of textiles by raw materials is labor-intensive, slow, and requires skilled labor. At the same time, countless attempts are being made to mechanically separate textiles using hyperspectral cameras.
At present, however, very few of the clothes intended for recycling are used for new clothes, such as carpets made of old cotton sweaters and suits made of cashmere clothes.