The rise of “fast fashion” has not only changed shopping habits but has also led to the creation of more waste as people are discarding clothes at twice the rate as in 2000, according to Greenpeace Taiwan.
In addition, people on average have 60 percent more clothing items than they did 19 years ago, Greenpeace Taiwan project manager Lo Ko-jung (羅可容) said in a recent interview with CNA, citing global data.
“What the data indicates, whether in Taiwan or globally, is that consumers are buying more clothes and discarding them faster,” Lo said.
With that trend, she said, the strain on the environment is increasing because the fashion industry — from garment production to disposal — causes environmental damage.
Lo said the garment industry is the world’s second largest source of pollution, after the petroleum sector.
Modern clothing is made mostly from either cotton or polyester fibers, she said, adding that the latter is a byproduct of the petroleum industry, while cultivation of the former requires huge amounts of water, land and pesticides.
Lo said the garment industry impacts the environment because the production of synthetic fibers indirectly increases carbon emissions, while the disposal of clothing produces greenhouse gases, whether they are burned or buried.
“The damage to the environment can be reduced by shopping wisely and rationally,” she said.
According to a Greenpeace survey published in June 2016, Taiwanese aged 24-45 discard at least 5.2 million items of clothing per year, which translates into 9.9 pieces every minute.
The survey also found that 54 percent Taiwanese in that age group own more clothes than they think they need, while 72 percent have garments that they bought new and have never worn.
With the rise of fast fashion — inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends — the volume of recycled clothes has increased but the quality has dropped, which reduces their life expectancy, Lo said.
“Fast fashion must slow down in order to lessen the impact on the environment,” she said.