Shruti Bansal, an environmental blogger who is a post-graduate (M. Tech) from IIT Kanpur in Environmental Engineering & Management. She has a diverse experience of about 4 years working with educational institutes (Jahaan Preschool), corporates (e.g. IL&FS), a research institute (e.g. NIDM) and start-ups (GCRS, Pro India). Her experience and research area include Climate Change, Climate Change Adaptation, Disaster Management, Solid Waste Management and Carbon Footprints. She is keen on utilizing her talent for the betterment of the environment. With experience as a Founding Principal of Jahaan Principal, she has also an interest in Early Childhood Education.

Shruti as a Guest Blogger with The EarthView describes the environmental hazards caused by fashion industry in her blog Dark Side of Bright Fashion....

Fast fashion is something everyone gets excited of. Fast fashion allows the customers to wear the similar clothes that were once worn in the fashion shows at an affordable price. Getting these stylish clothes at nominal prices has increased the demand for fast fashion. Advancement in Supply Chain Management, increase in purchasing power and price affordability are some of the reasons that have favoured the growth of fast fashion.

But have you ever wondered this comes at a price? A big price that our planet has to pay. From increasing the million tonnes of waste into the landfill to interfering our food chain, our planet suffers a lot from textile industries. If you still wonder how, let me explain you.

Figure 1: Impacts of Fast Fashion

1. Use of toxic chemicals and dyes:

Everyone loves to wear attractive and appealing colourful clothes. But has it occurred to you mind how your clothing fabric gets coloured? Harmful chemicals and textile dyes are used to give colours to clothing apparels. These synthetic dyes are cheap and give strong colour to the fabric, which after repetitive wash also stays with the fabric. Moreover, these dyes have been proved to be carcinogenic.

2. Water Contamination

The chemicals and dyes used in textile industries ends up polluting the water bodies. To make 1 ton of fabric dye about 200 tonnes of water is being used [1]. Presence of harmful substances in the dyes (including sulphur, naphthol, vat dyes, nitrates, acetic acid, soaps, chromium compounds and heavy metals like copper, arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury, nickel, and cobalt and certain auxiliary chemicals) makes the effluent water highly dangerous. Research says about 40 per cent colouring substances in these dyes are known to be carcinogenic. Shockingly, almost 20 per cent of the global waste water is generated by textile industries [2].

Figure 2 Toxicity of chemicals and dyes used in textile industries

3. Water Footprints

Textile manufacturing is a thirsty business. Clothing manufacturing has huge water footprints. Did it occur to your mind, a pair of your T-shirt and Jeans could consume up to 20,000 L of fresh water? Yes, you read it right, 20000 Litres of fresh water, the amount good for you to drink in about 12 years [3].

4. Solid Waste

Fashion industry generates millions of tonnes of waste. After oil industry, textile industry is the most polluting industry in the world. The Ellen Macarthur Foundation suggests, with each passing second a truck full of fabric waste is dumped in a landfill, which is roughly 10-14 cubic yards. Every one of us love to stay in trend and we wish to carry the trending and stylish outfits whenever we go out. Sadly, this practice is very destructive for our planet. Habit of throwing away the out-of-fashion clothes is very common these days. Major portion of the clothing waste, about 73 per cent is either dumped into the landfill or incinerated. Not just this, cutting process of fabric alone contributes to about 15 per cent of textile waste.

5. Microfibers into the ocean

Polyester, being cheap in price is the most common material used in the textile industries. Just by washing these fabrics, we are releasing half a billion ton of microfibers into the oceans, which is roughly equivalent to dumping 50 million plastic bottles. And this waste cannot be separated from the ocean, it eventually passes into the food chain.

6. Carbon Emissions

Fashion industry shares 10 per cent of the global carbon emissions [4]. Your 1 pair of T-shirt and jeans has a carbon footprints of about 40 kg. You might have heard, flights and ships cause lot of pain to our planet by huge carbon emissions. Sadly, fashion industry contributes more carbon than combining aviation and maritime industries [4].

Figure 3 Water & Carbon footprints of 1 Shirt and a pair of Jeans

7. Poor working condition

Affordable prices of trending apparel might excite you and if it is a festive time with heavy discount, then going out to add trendy apparels on your closet would be the first thing you will do. But have you given a thought how it is done, who pays the price for it? This is done by hiring the cheap labour, generally in the countries where labour rights have no significance. Textile companies exploits these workers by paying less than living wage, forcing them to work for endless hours (14-18 hours/ day), and compel them to work under unacceptable health and safety condition. Not only this, they even force millions of little children to work [5].

8. Animal Cruelty

If you are an animal lover, then supporting fast fashion may not excite you further. To extract leather, wool, fur, animal’s skins etc. animals are tortured in the worst possible ways. They are exploited in the form of forced farming, starvation, painful killing and sometimes their skin is taken off when they are alive [6]. And I believe you don't want to take this curse on yourself by buying apparels made out of these.

(This blog was first appeared on https://madforgreen.blogspot.com/2020/07/fast-fashion.html)