Impact of Disposable Fashion

In less than 20 years, the volume of clothing Americans dispose of each year has doubled from 7 million to 14 million tons.

In less than 20 years, the volume of clothing Americans dispose of each year has doubled from 7 million to 14 million tons.

Disposable Clothing 

The fashion industry produced 80 billion pieces of clothing last year. With the rise of cheap clothes, fast fashion has created a system that has in turn set up a potential environmental disaster. Their method is simply not sustainable.

In less than 20 years, the volume of clothing Americans dispose of each year has doubled from 7 million to 14 million tons (or a shocking 80 pounds per person). The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that diverting all of those often toxic, trashed textiles into a recycling program would be the environmental equivalent of taking 7.3 million cars and their carbon dioxide emissions off the road.

According to the EPA, 84 percent of unwanted clothes in the United States in 2012 went into either a landfill or an incinerator. Out of the clothing donated to Goodwill for resell in 2014, 11 percent was sent to landfills, the transportation of which cost the organization millions of dollars.

Litter

When clothing ends up in landfill it can pollute local environments by releasing methane and contaminating soil and groundwater. Here are a few examples of how long it takes for clothing vs. banana peel to biodegrade:

- Cotton glove: 3 months
- Wool: 1 to 5 years
- Leather shoes: 25 to 40 years
- Nylon: 30 to 40 years
- Rubber boot sole: 50 to 80 years
- Banana peel: a few days

Making smarter choices about what you buy, understanding what it’s made from and how long you will be able to wear it, helps reduce some of the impact. Organic cotton and bamboo are good alternatives, as are vintage or repurposed items.

When donating clothing, try and choose a reputable organization that is actively using the clothing to support others or turning it back in new textiles through closed loop recycling programs and collaborations.