Author: Karli Florisson
Published: January 03, 2020
Every 10 minutes, Australians send 6,000 kilograms of fashion and textile waste to landfill. Yes, you read that right. The enormous amounts of clothing that are sent to landfill every single day in Australia are just one of the hidden costs of fast-fashion. Here is another cost: that cheap cotton t-shirt that you picked up because it was cute and on sale took 2,700 litres of water to make. And there are still more costs. 90% of the garments imported into Australia come from Asia, where they are predominantly made by young, poorly paid women, kept trapped in a cycle of poverty by the poor conditions in the clothing industry. According to an Oxfam report, only 4% of what Australians spend on clothes goes to the garment workers. Add to this the environmental pollution created in the manufacturing process of our clothing, and slowly a picture begins to emerge. Cheap clothing isn’t really cheap at all.
In case you didn’t know, ‘fast-fashion’ is a term used by fashion retailers to describe inexpensive designs that move quickly to meet new trends. Fast-fashion is easy to consume, mainly because it’s cheap. You can wander through any big shopping centre and find attractive clothing that costs less than the price of a takeaway meal. You can find hundreds of stores online that sell clothing at incredible bargain prices. And if a button falls off, if you don’t really like the fit, or if you wore it once and decided that it wasn’t your colour you send it to the op-shop. No problem right, it’s going to a good cause? The problem is, op-shops these days are absolutely inundated with clothing donations. And a large portion of this clothing is cheap fast-fashion, and anything that is not in good condition, or simply doesn’t sell, gets sent to landfill. Around 25% of donations that op-shops receive end up being sent to the tip. Sending clothing to landfill can contribute to the costs of the charity that is running the op-shop. It also contributes to our increasing problem with waste and pollution.
Why is clothing such a big problem for landfill? Clothing is not designed to break down easily, and a polyester dress or top could take up to a thousand years to break down in landfill. Even natural fibres such as cotton and wool take a long time to break down. Clothing is very difficult to recycle, so very few recycling programs target them. Here in Australia, we are the second largest consumers of textiles in the world (after the USA), and we send around 85% of the textiles that we buy every year to landfill. Your impulse shopping spree in the bargain shops, resulting in clothing that you really won’t wear, is contributing to a big problem.
So, what is the solution? Buy secondhand, of course! There are so many positives to op-shopping and buying pre-loved clothing. According to a YouGov survey, 24% of Australians have thrown out a garment after only one wear, so it’s quite likely that the clothing you buy at an op shop will be almost brand new. You can get a good quality outfit for the same price as a cheaply made fast-fashion outfit. And there are so many places to buy second hand. You can shop online, on websites dedicated to selling secondhand designer fashion, or social media buy, sell and swap pages and auction sites like eBay. There are op-shops, where your money will go to support a charity, and also curated vintage shops that sell pre-loved vintage items. Here in Esperance, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to these kinds of shops. Op-shops includes the Red Cross on Dempster Street, the Anglican Church’s op-shop on Pink Lake Road (opposite the Esperance Primary School), and Esperance Care Service’s op-shop on Gilpin Street. You can also check out Esperance Tide’s collection of pre-loved secondhand and vintage items, for sale at Tide & Co in the Museum Village.
If you’ve read these sobering statistics, and are feeling like you’re ready to get off the fast-fashion treadmill, here are our top tips for being a responsible fashionista.
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