5 Detrimental Implications of Fast Fashion

Hip, trendy, and cheap. Some may argue that the fast fashion industry has democratized popular high-street clothing brands through innovation and mass production. While this could be true, in reality, we’re paying for a much higher price not reflected on their tags.

From child labour to climate change, fast fashion is hurting us and our planet in more ways than you can imagine.


Leave a comment

In this article, we’ve listed five of the most significant fast fashion problems that illustrate why brands and consumers should take a more conscious approach to their purchasing habits – sooner rather than later.

1. Landfills Choke on Textile Waste 

Garbage trucks in a landfill.

The fast fashion industry is now producing more garments than ever before to meet the impossibly high-consumption model they've created. From the usual norm of releasing collections for two international fashion seasons – spring/summer and fall/winter – some brands now introduce micro seasons weekly, creating 50 to 100 micro seasons per year

Due to seemingly endless trends, the ease of accessibility, and the incredibly cheap prices, the average consumer is now shopping for 60% more clothes than they did in the year 2000, but only keeping each item for half as long. The 2015 documentary film, The True Cost, suggests that the world is now consuming over 80 billion new pieces of clothing each year – a whopping 400% increase from 20 years ago.

At this point, we can say that clothes are almost disposable. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the equivalent of one garbage truck packed with clothes is dumped in landfills or burned every second. That's 85% of the fast fashion industry's production going to waste every year.

What's worse is that discarded clothes made of synthetic microplastic materials are non-biodegradable, meaning they'll be sitting in landfills with no signs of decay for over 200 years. 


2. Excessive Water Consumption Depleting Natural Resources 

Satellite image of the now dried Aral Sea in Uzbekistan due to cotton farming for the fast fashion industry.

One of the most crucial aspects that many individuals fail to address when talking about fast fashion problems is how it affects a vital resource that's already scarce — our planet’s water supply. 

Next to agriculture, the textile industry holds the spot for the second-highest water consumption worldwide, accounting for 93 billion cubic meters of water consumption every year. That’s enough water to quench the thirst of millions of people.

Cotton is the most widely used natural fibre, making up 33% of all fibres used in clothing production today. Unfortunately, it's an extremely thirsty crop. Because of this, magnificent bodies of water, such as the Aral Sea of Uzbekistan (where cotton farming is prevalent), have run dry. Just imagine, it takes 2,700 litres of water to make a single cotton shirt. That's more than enough to give one person at least eight glasses of water every day to drink for over three years. 


3. Marine and Water Pollution Caused by Microplastics and Textile Dyes 

A school of fish swimming through microplastic in the ocean.

Marine pollution is one of the most appalling fast fashion environmental impacts. Every year 500,000 tons of microfibers and microplastics – or 50 billion plastic bottles – are released into the oceans from washing clothes made from synthetic materials, such as polyester, nylon, or acrylic. 

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), at least 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year and contribute to 80% of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. At least 31% of this is from the textile industry. Non-biodegradable plastic debris floating in the ocean endangers the lives of precious marine species who get trapped in them or mistake them for food.

But the transgressions of the fast fashion industry against our waters don't end there. The textile industry is also one of the most notorious contributors to industrial water pollution, with 20% of the world's wastewater traced directly to textile dyeing and treatment processes. Untreated wastewater from garment factories is disposed of into freshwater resources, contaminating our water supply with heavy metals and toxins from sulphur, naphthol, vat dyes, nitrates, acetic acid, and soap. 

Exposure to chemical-laden water causes detrimental effects to plants and animals, compromising biodiversity. In humans, these toxic chemicals have been linked to cancer, gastrointestinal issues, and skin diseases.


4. Carbon Emissions Contribute to Climate Change 

A fast fashion production factory in China emits carbon dioxide, polluting the air.

The textile and garment industry is responsible for at least 10% of carbon emissions in the world. They rank second to the oil industry and have higher emissions than international flights and maritime shipping combined.

The energy-intensive textile production, transportation, and cotton farming processes release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, continuously aggravating our planet's dire predicament due to climate change. Additionally, polyester, which can be found in 60% of all garments today, is produced using fossil fuels, with carbon emissions three times worse than cotton. What's worse is that these cheap synthetic fibres also emit N2O, a gas 300 times more vicious than CO2


5. Child Labour and Inhumane Working Conditions 

Women working in a textile factory.

Perhaps one of, if not the most atrocious of all fast fashion ethical issues is a brands’ preference to mass-produce their products in the poorest parts of the world, where the marginalized are unfortunately exploited for cheap labour. 

Almost 97% of clothes you can buy in retail stores today are made overseas in Asian countries, like India, Bangladesh, China, and the Philippines, where labour laws and human rights protection are close to non-existent. 

Workers from desperately impoverished families, primarily women and underage girls, are expected to work at least 14 to 16 hours a day –even longer during peak seasons like the holidays – and are usually paid $50 monthly, barely sufficient to cover the basic cost of living. 

The 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy, which killed over a thousand garment factory workers, exposed the hazardous working conditions in sweatshops, which are prone to collapsing, catching fire, injuries, and other dangerous incidents. Additionally, employees work extensive hours handling and breathing in toxic substances and materials without any protective gear in buildings with little to no ventilation. Physical and verbal abuses are also a common occurrence in these factories.


Take One Conscious Step Closer to Change 

Despite the bleakness of these fast fashion problems, there are still ways to create a ripple effect of positive change together as a community.

Driven with a desire to Create Clean, BEDI provides you with the opportunity to Wear a Better Tomorrow.

Our goal is to help make your shift to slow fashion as smooth as possible. Our utilitarian collection exudes a timeless style that transcends trends – it’s everlasting. Each piece is handmade with love in Montreal, Canada, using landfilled-destined materials and plant-based fabrics, delivering a premium quality that Lasts Beyond You.

read more

  1. One Man's Trash is Another Man's Raw Materials

    One Man's Trash is Another Man's Raw Materials
    As humans, we are the sole species craving newness and innovation. Unfortunately, while this trait lead us to create the civilized societies we liv...
  2. Plastic Free July

    Plastic Free July
    “It’s not a world without plastic, it’s a world without plastic waste” -Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, Plastic Free July Founder You may have noticed more r...
  3. Zippers: The most underrated man-made invention of all time

    Zippers: The most underrated man-made invention of all time
    Zippers are probably one of the most used inventions of all time. When you think about it, you probably always have one on you - from your pants, p...
  4. Inspiration: Trailblazer Jane Goodall

    Inspiration: Trailblazer Jane Goodall
    Jane Goodall is one of the world's most celebrated primatologists, conservationists, and advocates for animal rights. Born in London, England in 19...
  5. Seatbelts: BEDI’s Secret Sauce

    Seatbelts: BEDI’s Secret Sauce
    It’s no secret that the automotive industry creates a lot of waste. We often associate this waste with the pollution caused by driving, and less wi...
  6. Cotton in the Circular Economy: Knits Made in Canada

    Cotton in the Circular Economy: Knits Made in Canada
    Cotton in the Circular Economy: Knits Made in Canada Cotton has been one of the most important fabrics used by humankind for thousands of years. It...
  7. Deadstock

    Also known as “overstock”, “surplus fabric/inventory”. Any excess or leftover materials that can't be used for their original purpose or order fulf...
  8. What Goes Up Does Not Always Come Down

    What Goes Up Does Not Always Come Down
    When it comes to our concern for climate action and a push for zero waste, the sky is not the limit. Our last two articles have been about global c...
  9. The Heart of our Planet

    The Heart of our Planet
    The Ocean is the heart of the planet. Water covers more than two-thirds of the Earth's surface. Sea plants, like Posidonia, produce 70% of the oxyg...
  10. World Environment Day: Only one Earth

    World Environment Day: Only one Earth
    World Environment Day is the biggest international day to celebrate and inspire positive change for the environment. It takes place on the 5th of J...
  11. The Alchemy of Econyl

    The Alchemy of Econyl
    Technology today has allowed for the innovation of mind boggling advances in the world of manufacturing textiles, especially from a sustainability ...
  12. Repair and Rewear: The Rise of the DIY Culture in Fashion

    Repair and Rewear: The Rise of the DIY Culture in Fashion
    There is a fascinating shift that has taken place in the last few years in the way that the world is looking at consumerism. With inflation at an a...
  13. Work-Life Balance and Zooming in your Pyjamas

    Work-Life Balance and Zooming in your Pyjamas
    We can all agree that, for better or worse, the last two years have changed the way we work. Many of us now work from home, which comes with many b...
  14. The 5 most sustainable cities and tastiest tap water in the world

    The 5 most sustainable cities and tastiest tap water in the world
    As we wade back into the world of travelling and borders have opened up for tourists around the world, we wanted to explore some of the most sustai...
  15. Local Production: Now more than Ever

    Local Production: Now more than Ever
      Shopping locally whether for food, clothing or home decor, has been a growing trend which has had positive results on our environment and local c...
  16. Minimalism: design and sustainability to lifestyle

    Minimalism: design and sustainability to lifestyle
     “Less is more” Minimalism is used to describe a lifestyle in which individuals strive to only purchase items that have a real purpose and utility....
  17. Second Life: The Explosion of the Resale Market and Why It’s So Crucial

    Second Life: The Explosion of the Resale Market and Why It’s So Crucial
    How often do you clean out your closet? Letting go of a bag filled with clothing every season might seem like it’s not a huge deal, but keep in min...
  18. Top 5 Transitional Weather Pieces to Invest In

    Top 5 Transitional Weather Pieces to Invest In
    Ushering in new seasons shouldn’t automatically mean shopping for the latest fast fashion pieces, although current advertising and marketing strate...
  19. How To Build An Eco-Friendly Capsule Wardrobe

    How To Build An Eco-Friendly Capsule Wardrobe
    Does it feel like you own a thousand outfits but always end up with nothing to wear? So then you end up shopping for new ones that you’ll probably ...