Fast fashion has done wonders for style savvy shoppers. We can get the designer look without the dent to our bank balance. The industry enables high street stores to churn out cut price runway replicas, season after season. However, there is a hidden side to the industry, lurking in the shadows of its success.

Excess clothing donations | Photograph courtesy of angelahartblog.com

When a new season creeps round and we fill our wardrobes with the latest must have styles, our worn clothes, from the season just gone, are tossed to the side. We pile the dust ridden clothes into plastic bags, send them off to the nearest charity shop and lull ourselves to sleep with the belief someone will find love for them once again. What escapes our minds, are the thousands of other fast fashion addicts doing the exact same thing.

“No Man’s Land” by French artist Christian Boltanski | Photograph courtesy of Béatrice de Géa

Charity clothing stores have faced a large influx of donations in recent years, due to the exploding industry. An influx they cannot accommodate for. On top of this, the cheap nature of fast fashion, which has escalated our spending habits, also gives rise to poor manufacturing. Leaving the majority of donated clothing too damaged to resell.

The remains of clothing donations in Loneman, South Dakota| Photograph courtesy of Aaron Huey

More and more charities are turning to textile recyclers to ease the pressure. Now, a staggering  45% of clothing donations are exported to developing countries by for-profit recyclers. For example, the US exports a billion pound of clothing every year. This is a huge help to charities, who would be left to send the masses of clothing to landfills.

Overflowing charity donations | Photography courtesy of NJAL

However, textile recycling creates its own bag of worms for the developing countries. With the inpouring of western clothing, there is less of a demand for their own. Rendering textile workers jobless. Uganda has almost eliminated its own textile industry, with 81% of all its clothing purchases through textile recycling.

African second hand clothing market | Photography courtesy of CNN

Fast fashion contributors, Zara and H&M, have finally dug their heads out of the sand and taken on a share of the responsibility. Distributed around their stores are recycling “bins” for customers to discard of their unwanted clothing, in a bid to curb the waste their industry creates.

H&M Conscious bin | Photography courtesy of The Guardian

This is a step in the right direction, which many other stores are likely to follow. Going forward, we can gather our efforts and raise awareness of this dark side of fast fashion. Cease the treatment of charity shops as our own personal dumping grounds and be more conscious of the quality of clothes we donate. Dial down the spending on cheap fast fashion trends. It’s good for our wallets. Good for the environment and good for our overcrowded wardrobes.  

Written by Patricia Mitchell

Edited by Sonia Wan

References

B.CRUICKSHANK (2017) Not Just a Label [Online] Available at https://www.notjustalabel.com/editorial/the-truth-about-your-clothing-donations [Accessed 29/06/17]

H.GOULD  (2017) The Guardian  [Online] Available at https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/may/26/zara-hm-step-up-instore-recycling-tackle-throwaway-culture [Accessed 29/06/17]