The Issue of Environmental Impact of Fashion Waste on Landfills
Summary of the issue
Driven by my passion for sustainable fashion, I am particularly interested in the environmental impact of garment waste ending up in landfills. Every year, 0.5 million tonnes of clothing are dumped into landfill sites in the world (M&S.com, 2013). Furthermore, one in four garments sold is thrown away each year. Textile waste in landfills is now raising environmental issues. For example, synthetic fibre products do not decompose and this threatens local group water suppliers. Since there are many chemical and toxic materials such as dyes and bleaches in rubbish, water that passes through the rubbish may become 200 times more toxic than raw sewage. In contrast, woollen garments do decompose but produce methane that leads to climate issues.
The so-called “Primark effect”, whereby consumers regularly throw out old clothing and buy new ones to keep up with trends, is taking place in the fashion industry due to the wasteful nature of fast fashion. The poor quality of cheap clothes means that consumers would rather throw them away and purchase new ones than pay to get them repaired. It is a good idea to give our unwanted clothing to charity to make money for the poor or local communities and decrease the amount of textiles, which are sent to landfills. However, my voluntary job experience in Oxfam makes me feel that charity is not the end of garment waste. The Oxfam shop that I used to work for receives a large volume of donations every day, and most of them derive from fast fashion. Sometimes not even the charity will sell them due to their poor quality. Additionally, some consumers just cannot be bothered to take their unwanted clothing to charity.
Garment Collecting Programme
In order to “reduce the environmental impact by limiting the amount of waste ending up in landfills”（H&M，2013）, the fast fashion giant H&M launched a sustainable programme called Garment Collecting in February 2013. This initiative was aimed at reducing the amount of fashion waste sent to landfills after the company had been caught destroying and throwing out tonnes of unsold clothes in 2010. The project allows the public to donate their unwanted clothes to any of the H&M stores, regardless of brand, material or condition. In return, consumers receive £5 shopping vouchers for their next purchase over £30. H&M now aims to send zero waste from their operations to landfill.
I am honestly very impressed with H&M’s ambition and desire to act as an ethical retailer after reading the company’s conscious action sustainability report. I feel that this is a very smart green marketing strategy in co-operation with sustainability. In first place, the initiative is beneficial to the environment. According to H&M’s research, 95% of dumped clothing can be used again. H&M’s partner company I:CO provides an infrastructure for old yet valuable resources, giving them a new use and working out further solutions for garments which are too worn to be resold. It is also noteworthy that the renewed materials will currently not be sent to H&M productions.
Consumers will also undoubtedly have the opportunity to clean out their closet while receiving an incentive for handing in their unwanted items: the perfect motivation to encourage more consumers to donate their clothing. As a consumer, I can’t find any reason for not doing so and it certainly makes me feel good to give back.
Oxfam and M&S collaborated on a similar recycling programme called Shwopping several years ago, with the main difference being that the recycled materials collected in this case contributed to M&S’ own label production. As the pioneers of the recycling movement, the Shwopping plan has collected 5,500,000 kg of garments since 2008, while H&M’s Garment Collecting has received over 4,300 kg donations over a one-year period. Surprisingly, I found that some countries like Chile have received no...
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