While the fashion industry is one of the largest, most lucrative and most influential industries in the world, it is also one of the most wasteful, with turnovers in trends happening almost weekly within large, international retailers, the consumption and then discarding of garments is occurring at such an alarming rate that the Earth’s resources are actually struggling to keep up with the consumer demand for throw-away fashion.

Greenpeace activists protest in front of Zara's store in Budapest on November 20, 2012. High street fashion brands are selling clothing contaminated with hazardous chemicals that break down to form hormone-disrupring or even cancer-causing chemicals when released into the emviroment, according to report released today by Greenpece International.   AFP PHOTO / ATTILA KISBENEDEK        (Photo credit should read ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images)

Greenpeace activists protest in front of Zara’s store in Budapest on November 20, 2012. High street fashion brands are selling clothing contaminated with hazardous chemicals that break down to form hormone-disrupring or even cancer-causing chemicals when released into the emviroment, according to report released today by Greenpece International. AFP PHOTO / ATTILA KISBENEDEK (Photo credit ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images)

Today’s consumer-driven growth model of the fashion industry has perpetuated a culture of fast fashion so rapidly changing that the environmental effects of our contemporary consumer culture are being felt in every corner of the world.

Cotton is the world’s largest single-source fibre and a key input for the apparel industry. The integral role in the industry, and the mammoth growth the industry has experienced over the last few decades has meant that cotton production has increased exponentially (Jackson 2014). Cotton fields require an immense volume of natural resources to maintain steady production, such as water for irrigation, land for the cotton fields, and chemicals used during the growing process that result in land, air and water pollution. Cotton also requires water during the processing stages, and because of this, the production of cotton is responsible for a staggering 2.6% of global water usage (Jackson 2014).

390px-CSIRO_ScienceImage_10736_Manually_decontaminating_cotton_before_processing_at_an_Indian_spinning_mill

Manually decontaminating cotton before processing at an Indian spinning mill 2010

The global garment production industry is also responsible for the use of nearly 8,000 synthetic chemicals in the processing of raw materials in to textiles. Unfortunately, large portions of these chemicals are released in to fresh water sources with an estimated 17-20% of industrial water pollution coming from the processing and dyeing of textiles (Jackson 2014).

A plant with five dyeing machines will need about 250kg of dye, along with other additives. Aproximately 2500kg of dyestuff paste circulates the plant every day. This plant is located within the Binhai Industrial Zone.

A plant with five dyeing machines will need about 250kg of dye, along with other additives. Aproximately 2500kg of dyestuff paste circulates the plant every day. This plant is located within the Binhai Industrial Zone.

While the garment production industry provides jobs for over 60 million people, the ecological effects of our culture of excess and over consumption are only deteriorating and cannot be ignored. In order to stifle the detrimental environmental effects of our lust for the latest, action needs to be taken to change our attitudes towards fast fashion and reduce our impact on natural resources.

Jackson, J 2014, ‘Assessing the Environmental Impact of the Fashion World’, environmentalleader.com, accessed 8th October 2015, < http://www.environmentalleader.com/2014/10/06/assessing-the-environmental-impact-of-the-fashion-world/&gt;

Krupnick, E 2012, ‘Chemicals in Fast Fashion Revealed in Greenpeace’s Toxic Threads: The Big Fashion Stitch-up’, huffingtonpost.com, accessed 8th October 2015, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2012/11/20/chemicals-in-fast-fashion-greenpeace-toxic-thread_n_2166189.html?ir=Australia&gt;

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