The fashion that kills the planet

09/18/2023 at 08:01


The ‘use and throw’ spiral fills closets with clothes that are thrown away after a few months and causes strong environmental impacts.

The fashion It has become a form of expression. The rise of firms low cost, that for years have taken over the commercial streets of the cities, has made the closets grow without restraint. For the same money that a pair of pants cost in 1990, today you can buy an entire outfit. Social networks have only increased this consumerism.

As soon as you open Instagram or Tiktok, the bombardment of videos of haulsthose in which young people (mostly women) appear opening gigantic packages full of clothing from Shein, Zara or Mango. The objective? Create quickly satisfied needs: If you liked that skirt, buying it is just one click away, so fast that you don’t have time to think twice.

The result is devastating: dozens of garments accumulated on hangers and drawers with only one or two uses. Even brand new. And from there, to the container. The problem that this poses for the environment is multiple: uncontrolled consumption of water, use of toxic substances in fabrics, transportation of merchandise, release of microplastics in washing that go directly to the sea or the tons of polluting emissions generated by its production are just some of them.

Used clothing dump | getty

To understand the consequences of this phenomenon, just take a look at the data. According to the latest report published by the United Nations, Between 2000 and 2015, clothing production on the planet doubled. Today, on average, each citizen buys 60 percent more clothing than 15 years ago. In general, due to their low prices, they have questionable quality, so much so that, as the UN denounces, 60 percent of everything sold ends up in landfills in less than a year.

According to the latest United Nations report, between 2000 and 2015, clothing production on the planet doubled

“He fast fashion causes them to be introduced into the market many collections that are on sale for short periods of time. It has gone from two a year (spring/summer and autumn/winter) to dozens. They have low quality to ensure that the price is reduced, so they are practically disposable clothing,” they say from Greenpeace.

10,000 liters for jeans

To find the first ecological consequence of this uncontrolled production, just look at the excessive amount of water used in the factories where these garments are made. Although the numbers vary depending on the source, taking an average, it can be concluded that To make a cotton t-shirt, up to 3,000 liters are needed.. The amount rises to 10,000 when talking about jeans.

Consumerism triggers clothing waste | Agencies

Not in vain, the textile industry is the second most demanding industry of the precious liquid and is responsible for 20% of the world’s wastewater. It is also responsible for one in five of the liters wasted globally.

As stated in the report ‘Anonymous synthetics: the addiction of fashion brands to fossil fuels’ prepared by the ChangingMarkets foundation, Synthetic fibers are still present in the vast majority of garments produced by the industry fast fashion. “They represent 69 percent of all materials used in textiles, a figure that is feared will increase by almost three quarters by 2030. 85 percent will be polyester,” the text quotes.

The problem is that polyester is obtained from fossil fuels (mainly oil), the great enemies of the climate. This means that the fashion industry is responsible for 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. It is a percentage higher than that represented annually by all international flights and sea routes.

The fashion industry is responsible for 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions

The use of these components has another enormously harmful consequence for ecosystems. When washed, fabrics release microplastics. And these end up in the seas and oceans because their tiny size prevents them from being trapped in the filters of wastewater treatment plants. According to Greenpeace, more than 500,000 tons are dumped every year.

Textile production | European Environment Agency

Likewise, we must not ignore the fact that numerous scientific studies have corroborated that some clothes low cost contain substances harmful to human health. Among the most common compounds are formaldehyde (used to prevent the fabric from wrinkling), antimony, silver nanoparticles (used to neutralize odor), plasticizers, flame retardants or perfluorinated compounds. Although there is no foolproof method to get rid of these particles, washing clothes before wearing them minimizes the problem.

Child exploitation

Most of the factories of low-price fashion brands are located in Asian countries, especially in China, Turkey, Vietnam, India, Cambodia or Bangladesh. There production costs are infinitely lower. Even if the garments have to be moved thousands of kilometers, it is still profitable for those responsible. And precisely transportation is another cause of the enormous pollution caused by this industry, a factor that has skyrocketed with the rise of online shopping. And the returns.

The latest calculations indicate that these companies employ more than 300 million people. But under what conditions? Some spend more than 16 hours a day in factories for a paltry salary. Many of them are children. “Ornaments with beads and sequins may indicate that child labor is involved,” warns the Ministry for the Ecological Transition in an information circular that offers consumers “tips to avoid falling into fast fashion.”

Clothing store | Agencies

There’s a solution?

Experts from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which works to promote the circular economy, agree that the solution involves four axes: eliminate fabrics with toxic substances or that release microplastics, increase the durability of clothing, use resources more efficiently and improve textile recycling. Of course, in order to develop strategies that encourage this reuse, we must keep in mind the importance of t-shirts, pants and dresses being made with a single material. Otherwise, it is very complicated and expensive to separate its components to give them a new life.

In Spain, the path towards the definitive implementation of the recycling culture is included in the Waste Law approved last year. This standard sets two clear objectives for 2025: completely prohibit the destruction of surpluses and make selective collection of textiles mandatory.

Companies are the ones that must lead the way. In this sense, at the beginning of 2023, seven multinationals joined together to promote this type of recycling in Spain. This is, without a doubt, a first step on the long path towards the sustainability of the textile sector.


INTERVIEW. Curra Rotondo. Founder and CEO of Lefrik:

“With free returns, sometimes you buy without thinking”

Curra Rotondo | Lefrik

There are multiple small companies that are committed to local and sustainable production, who make their items with environmentally friendly fabrics and who seek to leave a positive footprint on the planet. This is the case of Lefrik. This brand, which aims to “extend the life cycle of plastic bottles by using them as raw materials for the creation of products”, was born in Madrid in 2012 and sells backpacks, bags and accessories in a minimalist style. Its CEO and founder, Curra Rotondo, talks about the commitment and values ​​that guide her business. Every year they donate 1 percent of their income to social causes.

-How does a company like Lefrik compete with large multinationals?

-Identifying our client, providing a personalized and close service, being competitive in prices within the sustainable fashion sector and being very accessible through different sales channels. Although it is expensive, we believe it is the only way to grow and compete with large companies.

-How is the consumer ‘educated’ to pay more for a sustainably produced garment?

-Being very transparent with the processes and with the certification so that they are aware that being sustainable on a social and environmental level is expensive and processes take longer. Transparency and traceability are part of our DNA.

-One of the big problems in the fashion industry is transportation. How is this environmental footprint reduced?

-Being consistent throughout our production chain is part of our sustainable process. Whenever we can, we deliver to the end customer directly from origin to minimize our impact. We work with transport companies with whom we share our philosophy.

-And the returns?

-We put a great effort into reducing returns, which in this industry usually have a great impact on the pollution that comes from transportation. To do this, we make high-quality products that usually do not have defects. We also educate the consumer through their pocket, since we believe that the ‘free returns’ strategy has done a lot of damage to the industry and has caused people to sometimes buy without thinking, knowing that the refund can be made at no cost. .

-The chosen materials also have vital importance. Which ones do you bet on in Lefrik?

-We are committed to vegan fabrics since we understand that animal abuse is not consistent with our commitment to the environment. We use single-material options to encourage recycling at the end of their days, we do not use mixtures and we always use recycled or organic alternatives. We use recycled polyester from plastic bottles, but we don’t mix it with anything. In the next season we are going to introduce a fabric that comes from pineapple fibers and that looks like skin.


Contact of the Environment section: [email protected]