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Plastic Fashion: The Switch From Fossil Fuelled Clothing to Sustainable Style

Half a million tons of plastic microfibres, found in many fast fashion clothing items, are being dumped into the ocean each year, according to Greenpeace. Fast fashion is a major source of plastic pollution, but how do we truly shop sustainably?

The ‘Fast’ in Fast Fashion

Overconsumption is undoubtedly a current trend, with brands encouraging customers to not only spend more, but spend more often, in pursuit of the latest trends. These firms produce millions of clothing items a year, which are often short-lived and part of ‘micro-trends’, quickly disposed of once they either fall apart, or are branded as last season’s trends.

The ‘fast’ element of fast fashion refers to the speed with which you can buy and receive items, the speed at which retailers bring out new items, as well as the short lifespan of the clothes you buy. In an increasingly fast-paced society, this quick shopping experience becomes more and more attractive, with the ability to get ‘current’ styles of clothing to your door the day after you order them, and the option to return them just as quickly.

Return rates for clothing are at an all time high, with over a fifth of online clothes purchases being returned. This produces a large carbon footprint, and many of these returned clothes are sent to landfill sites. According to the British Fashion Council, around 75% of  returned clothes end up in landfill in the UK. This is detrimental to the planet, as the presence of clothing plastic microfibres is harmful and toxic to both animals, soil, and the ocean.

What Counts As Sustainable?

So, we are becoming increasingly aware of the negative effects of the fast fashion industry, but how do we make more sustainable choices? In short: slow down.

Despite the seemingly sustainable nature of charity shopping or eco-conscious clothing brands, it is the speed at which they produce new clothing items, as well as the amount we buy that is important. The current popularity of vintage/ charity shopping to find as many fashionable pieces as possible, could actually be doing more harm than good, since it encourages the fast paced movement that we often see in less sustainable brands. Additionally, sustainability is seen as a profit maker, where, in some cases, people buy desirable, often sold out fast fashion items simply to sell them on straight away on ‘sustainable’ resale sites for a higher price. 

Shopping sustainably requires conscious choices: checking if the clothing you buy is made from synthetic or natural materials, considering whether the trendy pieces you are investing in will still be fashionable in a few months, as well as choosing long-lasting and good quality clothing. 

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modern woman landfill consumerism versus pollution - Image by Ground Picture on Shutterstock (St ref: 1140)

Woman wearing plastic on white wall - Image by Master 1305 on freepik (ST ref: 1231)


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