Fashionable waste

Fashionable waste

The fashion industry is estimated to be the sector with the fourth highest impact on the environment and climate change. In this Horizons, we discuss the need for producers and consumers to reduce textile pollution and waste.

(Ultra)fast fashion should clean up its act

Fast fashion, the mass-production of low-quality apparel at cheap prices, has transformed the global fashion sector over the past two decades. Invented and made great by companies such as H&M and Inditex, global apparel production has more than doubled. Now, parties that are even faster and cheaper have entered the playing field. Ultrafast fashion companies like Shein, Primark and Boohoo are driving up consumption by launching new designs and styles in record time. They use influencers to market their products through so-called “haul videos” aimed especially at Gen Z (ages 10-25). Increasingly, these companies are under fire for their labor and environmental practices: substandard safety and working conditions in production facilities and use of synthetic fibers (e.g. polyester) in textiles. To tackle those issues and as part of its Green Deal, the EC has adopted the Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles, an ambitious vision to address sustainability and circularity in the textiles industry and ensure production respects human rights. For fast fashion companies this means, as the Commission states it, that by 2030 they should be out of fashion.

Broaden Your Horizons

  • Bloomberg writes Amazon is piloting a program to deliver products from shopping malls to nearby customers. This could be the start of quick delivery for a variety of products becoming mainstream.
  • This FT article describes how a 2017 Apple acquisition could lead to a breakthrough allowing Apple to launch a device that could transform, like the iPhone did.
  • Google is integrating hyperlocal data collected by sensors on the quality of air in Google Maps, the Verge writes.

Reducing the fashion footprint

Meanwhile, consumers should also be more conscious of the impact of their buying behavior. Fashion is the largest category by revenue in the global e-commerce market. For consumers, shopping for clothes online is easy and convenient; they send back the items that they no longer want to keep, often at no additional cost. In the Netherlands, for instance, consumers return 44% of online clothing purchases. Most people are not aware of the actual costs of their return shipment, the environmental impact, and what happens with returned items (destruction is a common practice). Besides raising awareness, webshops could also prevent returns by helping consumers select the right size and outfit through introduction of virtual fitting rooms. In addition, they may start a resale channel. Recently, thredUp released its 2022 Resale Report, indicating secondhand apparel is becoming a global phenomenon. With the rising popularity of online platforms such as Vinted and thredUp, retailers are starting to embrace resale as well. Apart from buying less clothes, the best way to reduce fashion’s waste is by giving clothes a second life.


Horizons is a bi-monthly Dasym Research initiative to show you how the Dasym themes have been in the news. We publish the Horizons on our website and as an email newsletter. If you wish to receive the email, sign up here.

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