The Negative Effects of Fast Fashion

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TACOMA, Washington — Fast fashion is the cheap mass production of trendy clothing. Companies use cheap materials and labor in foreign countries to produce clothing following the latest trends. In recent years, fashion trends started coming and going at a much faster rate. People want to keep up to date with all of the trends but couldn’t afford to until this new industry started. As a result, people are able to wear clothes for a short period of time before moving onto the next new thing. While this can seem beneficial the negative effects of fast fashion are overwhelming.

The Negative Effects of Fast Fashion: Pollution

Fast fashion accounts for 10% of all carbon emissions in the world and is the second largest industry when it comes to pollution behind the oil industry. Fast fashion companies put out 150 billion clothing items every year. Since the materials of the clothes are cheap, people throw them away after only a few uses in exchange for new clothing.

Many chemicals that are used to make these cheap clothes end up in landfills and back in the environment after being thrown out. Another problem with the clothing is that when washed or thrown away, 500,000 tons of microfibers, or tiny pieces of non-biodegradable materials, end up in the oceans every year. Fast fashion is a major factor in the destruction and pollution of the environment. Thus, pollution is just one of the negative effects of fast fashion.

The Negative Effects of Fast Fashion: Workers’ Rights

In addition to pollution, fast fashion companies also exploit their overseas workers to maximize profits. Fast fashion is bad for workers, especially young and underage women. These women work long hours with minimal pay and they work in unsafe working conditions. Many women start working underage because they need a way to support themselves.
Not only do these workers get paid measly wages, but they are also subjected to dangerous working conditions with no benefits or protection. There are instances throughout history, such as when the Rana Plaza workshop collapsed in 2013 killing over 1000 workers. The combination of working long hours, underpayment and extremely unsafe conditions are just some ways companies exploit their workers. And this exploitation is just another one of the negative effects of fast fashion.

The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC)

The Clean Clothes Campaign aims to improve the working conditions of workers in the fast fashion industry. The CCC was founded in 1989. They have been advocating for the rights of workers, especially women. In recent times women have been most affected by poor working conditions, most prominently in the fast fashion industry. They launch campaigns to educate workers and consumers about the industry to make life better for everyone.
There are currently eight active campaigns focusing on topics such as workers’ rights during COVID-19 and helping those in Bangladesh. They utilize their donations to put pressure on companies and governments to make changes in their policies. Similar to The Borgen Project, they lobby for legislation that protects workers’ rights and to raise awareness and mobilize people.
Fast fashion may provide affordable and fashionable clothing to many people, however, it comes with an ethical price. This industry is one of the leading causes of both water pollution and carbon emissions. Workers are paid unlivable wages without benefits and are exposed to many hazards. Many young women are exploited for the benefit of these large companies. So next time before you buy fast fashion items, think of the consequences of your purchase. Look for alternative shopping methods such as thrift shopping.
– Samira Akbary

Photo: Flickr

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