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New survey reveals environmental impact of fast fashion

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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New clothes bought in the UK produce more carbon emissions per minute than driving a car around the world six times, according to a new study conducted by Oxfam to discover the environmental impact of the UK’s fast-fashion culture.

The charity, which is calling for shoppers to refrain from buying anything new this month for its Second Hand September campaign, estimates that more than two tonnes of clothing is bought each minute in the UK, and this produces nearly 50 tonnes of carbon emissions, the same as driving 162,000 miles in a car.

In one month alone the emissions from new clothes bought are greater than those from flying a plane around the world 900 times, this is the amount of emissions the nation could save if everyone took part in Second Hand September, added Oxfam.

According to the study, fashion consumers purchased 1,130,000 tonnes of clothing back in 2016, an increase of 200,000 tonnes from 2012, which Oxfam states is 94,166 tonnes of clothing being bought per month.

Oxfam’s chief executive, Danny Sriskandarajah, said in a statement: “These staggering facts about fashion's impact on the planet and the world’s poorest people should make us all think twice before buying something new to wear.

“We are in a climate emergency - we can no longer turn a blind eye to the emissions produced by new clothes or turn our backs on garment workers paid a pittance who are unable to earn their way out of poverty no matter how many hours they work.”

Three in ten people won’t change their fast fashion habits, Oxfam study finds

Highlighting the fast fashion crisis, Oxfam explains that buying one new white cotton shirt produces the same amount emissions as driving a car for 35 miles. This is based on a 100 percent cotton shirt with a net weight of 220 grams, which amounts to 10.75 kilograms of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

An item of clothing could travel 21,748 miles, from a cotton field in the US, to production units in Bangladesh, to the shipment of the product to Germany and finally to the customer.

However, worryingly, the study of 1,000 British adults found more than half, 53 percent, are not aware fast fashion is damaging to the environment, while three in 10 said that although they are shocked at how much damage fast fashion has on the environment, they probably won’t change their habits.

Shockingly, the study added that almost one in 10 admitted they are “not bothered” about the impact their shopping has on the environment, as the research found that the average adult spends 27 pounds a month in fast fashion outlets and two items are currently owned which remain unworn, while one-sixth own as many as five unworn items.

However, over one-third said they are shocked and will change the way they purchase clothes.

Sriskandarajah, added: "As consumers, it’s in our power to make a real difference. Buying second-hand clothes helps to slow the ferocious fast fashion cycle, giving garments a second lease of life. By taking part in Oxfam’s Second Hand September, we are also sending a clear message to the clothing industry that we don’t want to buy clothes that harm our planet and the people in it.

“I’ve pledged to take part in Second Hand September. And I am discovering that you can find some very cool outfits in Oxfam. Together we can make a difference and help reduce fast fashion's impact on people and the environment.”

Oxfam reveals shocking impact of fast fashion, as it launches Second Hand September

The statistics produced by Oxfam are based on lifetime emissions for new clothing bought in the UK, including sourcing raw materials, manufacturing, production, transport, washing and disposal, and it adds that the poorest people in the world who did the least to cause climate change are suffering most.

Oxfam adds that the richest 10 percent of world are responsible for around 50 percent of global emissions, while the poorest half are responsible for 10 percent.

But it is not only pollution which is causing Oxfam to be concerned by the UK’s wasteful relationship with clothing, the throwaway culture of fast-fashion is leading to 11 million garments ending up in landfill in the UK. In addition, the charity states that cheap prices in the UK likely reflecting the exploitation of workers.

“To keep prices low, throwaway fashion is made by garment workers often from poor communities, and paid below the living wage,” explains Oxfam.

The survey of 1,000 British adults was conducted by Onepoll on behalf of Oxfam between August 21-22, 2019.

Image: by rawpixel.com from Pexels

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