Overconsumption of Clothes

Impact on the Environment      Impact on Workers

The price of clothes has dropped quite significantly in the last few years. Between 2001 and 2005 the number of garments bought per person in the UK increased by over one-third. Low-value retailers like Primark and Peacocks turn around catwalk trends into cheap copies within weeks.

Increased buying has led to a growing problem of what to do with our cast-offs. We buy more and more often and therefore get rid of our “old” clothes more frequently. It seems like quantity has become more important than quality.

Today it seems like there is no need for recycling or reusing anymore, because there are new, cheap products available. The seasonal organisation of shopping practices and the turnover of new goods have changed. Today there is a constant turnover of products, compared to three or four fashion seasons 30 years ago.

“The rate of purchase and disposal has dramatically increased, so the path that a T-Shirt travels from the sales floor to the landfill has become much shorter”. (1) People are no longer throwing out clothes because they are old and tatty but because they are out of fashion.

Fast fashion is about the trend of the moment being “in fashion”, but declining quality means that the vast amounts of clothing we donate to charity and which eventually end up at a textile recycling plant like LMB  can´t be reused (as second hand clothing) which leads to more and more collected textiles still ending up in landfill. An additional 74 per cent of new purchases end up dying long, slow deaths in the nations landfills. Three times out of four, our unwanted clothes go straight in the bin. This means our clothes have increasing environmental costs.

The rapid style changes also come with social costs. The fast fashion phenomenon is only possible because clothing is so cheap and that is only possible because of the moving of production to low cost countries, and by putting downward pressure on working conditions and environmental standards, the so called `race to the bottom´.



Click on the links above to find out more about environmental and social impacts of our clothes consumption.


(1) Quote, Luz Claudio, Waste Couture, p. A 451