by Onome Umukoro
Fast fashion is a hotly debates topic, mass-producing inexpensive garments rapidly to boost sales and keep up with the ever-changing trends and aesthetics of current times. Its inexpensive nature allows easy accessibility to the fashion industry, allowing consumers to experiment and build their identities with clothes.
The concept of fast fashion has been around for as long as we can remember, dating back to the 1960s when companies like Zara would produce several pieces of clothing in record time to keep up with current fashion trends of the time. Some could argue that companies could not have predicted how big of an effect fast fashion would have on our environment and how it would aid climate change, because of the distant nature of climate change, current actions could not be seen as damaging.
With the use of synthetic and non-biodegradable materials to make garments which are short-lived and are discarded after a short period as they are not made to last long, the disposable nature of fast fashion creates waste and pollution. but these actions would later lead to rising sea levels, increasing temperatures and CO2 emissions.
The fashion industry arguably contributes more to climate change than several industries, surprisingly more than both the aviation and shipping industries combined. Looking at the statistics, according to the United Nations the fashion industry now contributes 8-10% of global emissions and is responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which are terrible for both the environment and our health as they contribute to respiratory diseases, regarding our environment, the trapped heat cause extreme weathers which affect our food supply distribution and increase wildfires.
Fast fashion is also popularly known to give way to worker exploitation and human rights violations as workers are paid low wages, work in unhealthy and inhumane conditions and work extremely long hours to keep up with demand, a majority of these workers being women and children in under developing/developing countries such as China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam and turkey. Exploiting child labour and low and unfair wages, some brands even go as far as using unsafe chemicals in uncontrolled and poor work environments which put the lives of workers in danger.
So, how has the European Union responded to these issues? As fast fashion is set out and estimated to produce 134 million tonnes of waste by the year 2030, The European Union proposed several new rules to tackle the fast fashion epidemic, aiming to put an end to fast fashion by 2030. The first rule is mandatory minimum use of recycled fibres. This could reduce the amount of waste produced that eventually end up in the landfills and could also reduce the amount of energy used to produce new fibres, the EU also plans to ban companies from sending any unsold clothing and textile product to landfills. The European Union also plans to make clothing easier to repair and more durable as a way to counter the polluting use of fast fashion.
The overall goal is to make products long-lived and to promote recycling and to promote textiles being made with more recycled fibres and free from hazardous chemicals whilst respecting the rights of its workers and the environment. “All textiles should be long lasting, recyclable, made of recycled fibres and free of dangerous substances. The strategy also aims to boost reuse and repair sectors and address textile waste,” Frans Timmermanssaid. Driving for a sustainable future for the European fashion industry And a circular economy. The European Union also cautions consumers, encouraging them to be more conscious of the way they use clothes.
The new rules do tackle several environmental issues such as the depletion of non-renewable resources, reducing the emission of greenhouse gasses and the excessive use of water and energy as well as preventing water pollution. Although these rules help, theoretically, make a better environment for workers, I would like to see how the European Union intends on compensating those who have worked in the countries affected by the fast fashion industry.
The EU's ambitious plans to curtail fast fashion signify a turning point in the fashion industry's approach to sustainability. By prioritizing recycled fibers, banning landfill disposal, and promoting repairability and durability, the EU aims to pave the way for a more responsible and environmentally conscious fashion sector. However, it is crucial to ensure that the implementation of these regulations also addresses the social impact and provides support to workers in affected countries. Through collective efforts and informed consumer choices, we can contribute to a more sustainable and ethical fashion future.
Edited by Emily Duff