How Wasteful Are We? The Fashion Industry’s Shocking Truth

If the average life of clothes could be extended by just nine months it could reduce carbon, water and waste footprints by 20-30%. – Leigh Mapledoram , Program Area Manager,  Wrap UK

Fashion Industry Statistics

  • The global apparel market is valued at 3 trillion dollars, 3,000 billion, and accounts for 2 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).1
  • Almost 75% of the world’s fashion market is concentrated in Europe, USA, China and Japan.2
  • Second to oil, the clothing and textile industry is the largest polluter in the world.3
  • United Nations Climate Change News states, The fashion industry contributes 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions due to its long supply chains and energy intensive production.
  • The US is the largest importer of garments in the world; nearly 40% of apparel products sold in the US are imported from China.2

Waste

  • Between 2000 and 2014, clothing production doubled with the average consumer buying 60 percent more pieces of garment compared to 15 years ago. Yet, each clothing item is now kept half as long. 9
  • Nearly 20% of global waste water is produced by the fashion industry.9
  • Cotton farming is responsible for 24% of insecticides and 11% of pesticides, despite using only 3% of the world’s arable land.9
  • 20,000 liters is the amount of water needed to produce one kilogram of cotton; equivalent to a single t-shirt and pair of jeans.10
  • It takes more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just a T-shirt and a pair of jeans. 3
  • Textile industry is one of the top 3 water wasting industry in China, discharging over 2.5 billion tons of wastewater every year.2
  • NPR reports, from the Environmental Protection Agency, that 15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded.
  • About 15% of fabric intended for clothing ends up on the cutting room floor. This  waste rate has been tolerated
    industry-wide for decades.4
  • According to Christina Dean, Redress, waste generated in China is not known, with estimates that China will soon make 50% of the world’s clothing – the indications for textile waste there are mind-blowing.  Daily in Hong Kong, there are 253 tons of textiles sent to landfill.

Recycle

  • Consumers throw away shoes and clothing [versus recycle], an average of 70 pounds per person, annually. 5
  • While, a few communities have textile recycling programs, about 85% of this waste goes to landfills where it occupies about 5% of landfill space and the amount is growing. 5
  • Up to 95% of the textiles that are landfilled each year could be recycled. 7
  • Landfill space is expensive and hard to find. 5
  • Using recycled cotton saves 20,000 liters of water per kilogram of cotton, a water-intensive crop.8

Used Clothing

  • The U. S. is the largest exporter of secondhand clothing.  It exports over a billion pounds of used clothing every year.6
  • Over 70% of the world’s population use second hand clothes.7
  • Consumers in the United Kingdom have an estimated $46.7 billion worth of unworn clothes in their closets. 2
Large Bins Storing Waste Cloths
Fuel4Fashion |Large bins storing waste cloths

 

Reference Notes:

  1. https://fashionunited.com/global-fashion-industry-statistics
  2. http://www.business2community.com/fashion-beauty/30-shocking-figures-facts-global-textile-apparel-industry-01222057#hBWEEKFemo8cCM9Q.97
  3. http://www.alternet.org/environment/its-second-dirtiest-thing-world-and-youre-wearing-it;  Forbes – Making Climate Change Fashionable – The Garment Industry Takes on Global Warming
  4. Timo Rissanen, “From 15% to 0: Investigating the creation of fashion without the creation of fabric waste,” Presenter, Kreativ Institut for Design og Teknologi, September 2005.
  5. http://worldwearproject.com/about-us/global-responsibility
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_trade_of_secondhand_clothing
  7. http://www.smartasn.org/ | Secondary Materials and Recycling Textiles [SMART]
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1964887/
  9. United Nations Partnership on Sustainable Fashion and the SDG’s
  10. https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/cotton

Other References:

Feature Image:  Recycling International

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Rhonda P. Hill

Founder, Publishing Editor

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