Your ‘plastic’ clothes end up on your plate – here is how

Fast fashion 1

Does shopping make you happy? Do you enjoy a regular chase for good offers at Primark, H&M, Next, Zara, etc.? OMG they always have something new and cooler than yesterday!

Well… you will probably want to stop buying these irresistible brands or at least you might be more mindful of what you are buying after I give you these ‘fun’ facts.

What is ‘Fast fashion’?

‘Fast fashion can be defined as cheap, trendy clothing, that samples ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture and turns them into garments in high street stores at breakneck speed. (1)’

In the competition between high street fashion brands, in the late 1990s and 2000s brands like H&M, Zara and Topshop found a way to take design elements from the top fashion houses and produce them cheaply and quickly. Additionally, the introduction of online shopping made it possible for everyone to buy cheap trendy clothes whenever they wanted. (1)

How do you pollute your food?

boohoo sweatshirt
Screenshot made on 26th April 2019 from Bohoo’s website. – https://www.boohoo.com/tie-dye-madison-ave-oversized-sweat/FZZ97943.html

About 60% of today‘s clothing contains polyester (2) and the most attractive materials for fast fashion use are synthetic fibres as they are the cheapest (see fig. 1). The problem is that every time you wash your synthetic or blended with synthetic fibres clothes, plastic microfibres come off and get into the wastewater. According to a study, washing machines in Europe alone flush 30.000 tonnes of synthetic fibres into wastewater every year (2). After that, around 40% of these plastic microfibers reach the rivers, lakes and oceans (3).

These plastic microfibres account for 85% of the waste found along ocean shores and while threatening marine wildlife they threaten our health (4). They are so small that they get easily eaten by fish and other marine animals. A recent study of the seafood sold in California and Indonesia found that there were fish which guts were filled with plastic in markets in both locations (3). The plastic ‘recovered from fish in the US was primarily fibres’ (3, par.14). Additionally, plastic fibres have the ‘ability to absorb persistent organic pollutants and to concentrate them in animals’ tissues’ (3, par.18).

In short, a single synthetic garment can release around ‘1,900 individual fibres’ (4, par.5) ending up in oceans and therefore- in our plates. They are toxic and contaminate our food.

Conclusion

Obviously, not all your garments’ microfibers end up eaten by fish in the oceans but if you have synthetic clothes you are still contributing to that disaster. There are many other reasons which I will mention in my next blog (Fast Fashion 2) about why you would want to stop supporting fast fashion and what more you can do to stop disastrous fashion practices but for now you can simply buy less and love what you have. Also, mind what you buy. There are many clothes made with materials such as hemp, linen/flax, organic cotton which are not only more ecologically- friendly but also better for you. If you do not find them as cheap as the synthetic ones sold by fast fashion companies you should consider buying second-hand clothes- you will be surprised how good stuff you can find! Additionally, there are many companies that offer sustainable clothes and they are getting more and more!

 

By Kalina Georgieva

References:

  1. Rauturier, S. (2018) What Is Fast Fashion?, Available at: https://goodonyou.eco/what-is-fast-fashion/ (Accessed: 8th April 2018);
  2. Greenpeace (2017) FAST FASHION, FATAL FIBRES, Hamburg, Germany: Greenpeace e. V.;
  3. Messinger, L. (2016) ‘How your clothes are poisoning our oceans and food supply’, The Guardian, 20th June;
  4. O’Connor, M., C. (2014) ‘Inside the lonely fight against the biggest environmental problem you’ve never heard of’, The Guardian, 27th October.
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