Sustainability Week 2021: The Damaging Effects of Fast Fashion 

For her Extended Project Qualification, Letty investigated the extent of the damage caused by fast fashion; here she tells us about that research.

Fast Fashion is described as a design, manufacturing, and marketing method focused on rapidly producing high volumes of clothing. This way of producing clothing has devastating effects, especially on the environment. 

Through my Extended Project Qualification I investigated the extent of the damage that fast fashion produces. I learnt that textile production is responsible for an estimated 1.2 billion tonnes of COequivalent per year, which is more than international flights and maritime shipping combined. I was surprised to find that cotton uses more pesticides than any other crop in the world, which spread to waterways and harm animal life. It is also the planet’s thirstiest crop, using about 2,700 litres of water to grow enough to make a single t-shirt. 

I found the top four main effects of fast fashion were: pollution of effluents, deforestation, COemissions and the textile waste that ends up in landfills. The effects can be seen already with piles of clothing swamping Chile’s Atacama Desert, which is used as a dumping ground for fast fashion leftovers - over 39,000 tonnes are there already.

Ever-changing fashion trends and poor-quality clothing lead to second hand or even unused clothing ending up in heaps polluting the earth. So much of this clothing arrives in Chile from the US and Europe, where it is expected to be sold, but there is so much that people cannot sell, and no one is willing to pay the tariffs required to have it transported elsewhere. 

These staggering figures show just how important sustainable fashion is and how there is so much more we can do to reduce clothing waste.