An Environmental Crisis: The Fast Fashion Industry, Plastic and its Synthetic Fabric Waste
U.S. Geological Survey and industry reports, global polyester production exceeded 50 million metric tons annually.
As of January 2022: Statistics related to plastic pollution worldwide
Global plastic production surpassed 368 million metric tons in 2019.
Production is expected to increase, with estimates suggesting it could reach 600 million metric tons by 2030.
Approximately 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced since the 1950s.
It is estimated that about 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste have been generated, of which only 9% has been recycled.
Over 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans each year.
There are around 5.25 trillion plastic pieces in the oceans, with a total weight of over 269,000 tons.
Plastic Recycling Rates:
Globally, only about 9% of plastic is recycled.
The majority of plastic waste is either incinerated, sent to landfills, or ends up in the environment.
Plastics entering the environment directly from the Fashion Industry:
Microplastics in Synthetic Fabrics:
- Many fast fashion items are made from synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon, which shed microplastics during production, use, and washing.
- A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology estimated that a single polyester garment can release over 1,900 microfibers per wash.
- Fast fashion brands often use plastic packaging for individual garments and shipping materials.
- The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that the fashion industry produces 8% of the world's plastic waste, and a significant portion of this is attributed to packaging.
Global Plastic Production by the Fashion Industry:
- The Pulse of the Fashion Industry report suggests that the fashion industry produces around 53 million metric tons of fiber annually, and a considerable amount of this includes synthetic fibers.
- A significant portion of these synthetic fibers is derived from fossil fuels, contributing to the overall plastic production.
Waste Generation from Fast Fashion:
- Fast fashion's business model, characterized by rapid turnover and disposable fashion, leads to increased waste generation.
- The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimates that around £140 million worth of clothing goes to landfills each year in the UK, contributing to plastic and textile waste.
What you can do in your daily life to help reduce plastic consumption and its negative impact on the environment:
Reduce Single-Use Plastics:
- Choose reusable, plastic free alternatives like water bottles, bags, and containers.
- Refuse single-use items such as straws and disposable cutlery.
Opt for Eco-Friendly Packaging:
- Select products with minimal or eco-friendly packaging to reduce overall plastic consumption.
Mindful Clothing Choices:
- Choose clothing made from natural fibers like cotton instead of synthetic materials to minimize microfiber release during washing.
Proper Waste Disposal:
- Dispose of plastic items responsibly by using recycling bins and following local recycling guidelines.
- Avoid littering to prevent plastic from entering waterways and ecosystems.
- Ensure proper recycling of plastic waste, supporting the recycling infrastructure in your community.
Support Sustainable Brands:
- Choose products from brands committed to sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices.
- Share information about the impact of plastic pollution with friends and family to raise awareness.
Participate in Clean-Up Initiatives:
- Join or organize community clean-up events to remove plastic waste from public spaces.
Contribute to Policy Advocacy:
- Support and advocate for policies that promote plastic reduction, recycling, and sustainable practices at local and national levels.
Be a Conscious Consumer:
- Make informed choices about the products you buy, considering their environmental impact.