The effects of fast fashion

Craig of That Dapper Chap explores the effects that ‘Fast Fashion’ is having on our world and how we can make a difference

Image courtesy of BBC Hughes War On Waste

Question: What do you do with your clothes once you’ve decided that they’re not for you any more? Are you happy with how you dispose of them?

Let me ask you another question: How long do you think it takes for people in the UK to dump 10,000 old pieces of clothing, like the pile in the picture above? A year? A month? A week? Maybe even a single day?

The reality of ‘fast fashion’

If you said any of the above you’d be wrong. It takes just 10 minutes! So the next time you boil the kettle and make a cup of tea another 7 tonnes of clothing has been thrown into landfill. Think about that, while you sip your tea and enjoy a chocolate biscuit.

A Landfill site. Image credit; Global Green Group

Fashion is faster than ever. Clothing is cheap and therefore disposable and that’s just what a huge proportion of people are doing when they’ve had enough of a piece of clothing. Would it shock you to know that fashion is the worlds fastest growing waste stream?

Because demand for instant fashion is so high, makers are sourcing ever low cost resources to meet our demands. That often means creating garments from fabrics that have been dyed with cheap but toxic chemicals. the waste from which is disposed of in local water sources. Water sources that are then used in farming to feed crops, fruit and vegetables.

The effects could soon reach catastrophic proportions, so we all need to understand the issue as we all play a part in it as a brand or as a consumer.

Big brands make big changes

Because this is a global issue big brands like Burton and H&M among others are taking steps to mange this issue. Burton for example (part of the Arcadia group) have created the Fashion Footprint programme and state on their website that they will “produce fashionable products in an ethical way and demonstrate a responsible attitude towards people and the environment.

When customers buy our goods, we want them to be confident that they have been produced under acceptable conditions. That means the goods must have been produced:

* lawfully, through fair and honest dealing;
* without exploiting the people who made them;
* in decent working conditions; and
* without damaging the environment.


H&M have their own stance in combating this issue and people like you and I can now take our old clothes in to any one of over 3,300 of their stores.

Rethink, reuse and repurpose

So here’s where you come in. The brands are doing their part so you should too. There are many ways to stop your old shirt rotting in landfill for the next 10 years and I want to share a few with you now.

Donate it

Take your clothing to a charity shop, not only will you help a charity raise money for a good cause, but you’re also helping those with less income to keep clothes on their back. Many charities also post bags through our doors, don’t just throw that in the bin with your old Calvins, fill it and leave it outside. It’ll take just a few minutes and you also don’t have to worry about taking a trip to the charity shop.

If you shop at a supermarket, many of them also have recycling bins where you can donate your old clothes. Two birds, one stone! You always wondered what those big metal boxes were right?

Alternatively take a look at RecycleNow for more advice and details of local recycling points near you.

Repurpose or upcycle it

If you’re creative or know someone who is, why not turn something old into something new? Swithbert & Louis for example create wonderfully individual scarves from recycled clothing while others like Catherine Aitken are taking your old jacket and making a great new man bag.

Grab those scissors and get sewing. There are a number of websites that will inspire and offer advice on how you bring your project to life like AllFreeSewing, Pinterest and TheSewingLoft 

Mend And Repair

A small stain or a tiny tear does not mean the end of your jumpers life, it just means that it needs a little care and attention!

If you spill food on yourself, the best thing you can do immediately to stop the stain is to lick it. Yes, that might seem weird in a restaurant but our saliva has natural enzymes in it, purposely intended to break down food stuff. Make the most of it! Then when you get home, add a drop of water and give it a scrub with some Vanish soap before sticking it in the machine. Job done.

Alternatively, give it a google, there’s a wealth of information from helpful people to teach you how to get all sorts of stains out of your clothes.

PopSugar.com shows us how to easily remove a ketchup stain

We all know people that can mend clothes, you may not think you do but you do! Just ask around. Failing that there will be places that you can take your torn shirt to that will send it back as good as new. Most dry cleaners offer a professional repair service too.

There’s also a website dedicated to fixing things and covers everything from your iPhone screen to your shirt. It’s called ifixit.com. Go check it out.

Never sewn on a button before? If that’s you, I’m disappointed! It’s stupidly simple. Stuck zipper? No problem! Just get yourself on YouTube, there are thousands of videos that show you step by step how to sew on a button, mend a zip, repair a seam or add a patch.  Some of them you won’t even need a needle for.

Over to you

So, now that you’re armed with the facts and the knowledge it’s down to you and I to help make just a small difference to a big problem. If every person in the UK just recycles or repairs one item of clothing this year, that’s 65 million items of clothing that won’t go into landfill. That equates to 45,500 tonnes. That’s the weight of 91,000 cars or 6,500 fully grown elephants. Puts things into perspective right?

Also while researching things that weigh a tonne I found out that a farmer in Rhode Island once grew a pumpkin that weighed a tonne! That’s a lot of pumpkin pie. Just don’t spill it on your shirt! But if you do, at least you now know what to do about it.

Thanks for stopping by. Now stop reading and get recycling!

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