From the field to the washing machine, this is how the fast fashion cycle pollutes the environment

Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images
Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

100 billion items of clothing are sold each year in the world – double the figure as that from 15 years ago. This is the consequence of fast fashion and the response to the latest trends. 

Even at the raw material stage, pollution is present. 26 percent of our clothes are made of cotton, which requires a great deal of water. Then there are the pesticides and fertilisers. Making a T-shirt requires a water equivalent of 70 showers, while more than 60 percent of our clothes are made from polyester which comes from oil, so their carbon footprint is also considerable. 

READ MORE: For a true war on waste, the fashion industry must spend more on research

Dyeing, washing out, and softening the raw material requires products that are as dangerous for workers that use them as they are for the environment. Additionally, transporting clothes is far from environmentally friendly. A pair of jeans can travel one-and-a-half times around the world. 

Even in our homes, clothes continue to pollute – when they are washed, polyester shirts release microfibers into the oceans as much as 500 000 times per year. This works out to the equivalent of 50 billion bottles of plastic.

Textiles are one of the world’s most polluting industries – 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere each year - more than an international air travel and maritime shipping combined.

Compiled by Afika Jadezweni

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