This year’s shopping carnival will result in over $10 billion in merchandise transactions in a matter of hours, but what is of greater concern is that the excessive consumption behavior brought about by the shopping carnival has exacerbated the problem of excess goods. Among them, the “fast fashion” clothing brands have a high turnover rate of new styles and shelves, resulting in a large number of unsold discarded clothes piling up in mountains. So where do all the clothes go after they are taken off the shelves?
Each piece of clothing is worn an average of 7 times before being thrown away, the United States textile waste increased by 811%
“Fast fashion”, which has become popular in recent years, refers to the mass production of replicas of popular styles at low prices. On the one hand, brands take advantage of fashion trends to offer inexpensive clothing to meet expanding consumer demand. On the other hand, retailers put new fashionable clothes on the shelves for consumers to buy, and quickly remove those that don’t sell as well, leaving them in an endless rotation.
ASOS, a leading British fashion e-commerce company, reportedly introduces at least 5,000 new styles each week. The rapidly expanding line of fast-fashion clothing has also led to rampant consumerism due to low prices and ease of purchase, with consumers buying clothes in ever-increasing numbers but also discarding them faster than ever before.
A 2017 report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “The New Textile Economy,” shows that global apparel production has doubled in the past 15 years. But clothing utilization – the average number of times a garment is worn before it is discarded – has fallen by 36 percent. In the U.S., which has many fast-fashion brands, the study showed that the number of clothes purchased by Americans has increased fivefold over the past 30 years, but each piece of clothing has worn an average of only seven times.
The rise of fast fashion in the U.S. is also causing the amount of textile waste to be on the rise. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), textile waste in the United States has increased by 811 percent from 1960 to 2015.
For unused or discarded clothes, the U.S. has taken basically three measures: donate, recycle or throw them into landfills. According to EPS statistics, of the 16 million tons of textile waste generated in the U.S. each year, only 2.5 million tons of clothes are recycled, and a staggering 10 million tons of clothes are sent to landfills.
The United States “exports” 700,000 tons of used clothing each year, the Chilean desert has become a “garment graveyard”
In the United States, used clothes that do not sell or enter the textile recycling are often exported to those “distant countries. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. produces 16 million tons of textile waste each year, of which about 700,000 tons are exported overseas, mainly by its “poisonous” third world countries.
“What does not sell in thrift stores is sold to the ‘salvage’ market. It’s a long and complex supply chain that is completely invisible not only to the average person but also to those involved,” noted Ricketts, co-founder of the OR Foundation. This invisible “recycling chain” but let the mountains of textile waste fill the third world countries with second-hand markets, beaches, and landfills.
At least 39,000 tons of fast-fashion surplus clothing is shipped to landfills in Chile’s Atacama Desert every year, according to a report by foreign media on the 8th, and the mountains of discarded clothing are turning into a “spectacular” landscape on this desert. These synthetic or chemically treated garments release toxic substances no less than discarded tires or plastic products, releasing pollutants into the air or ground waterways that can take up to 200 years to biodegrade.