Ever wonder what happens after clothes have been made, worn. What happens then?
Before that’s discussed, almost two thirds of clothes are made from polyester, synthetic fibres, nylon and acrylic which are all made from plastic. After clothes are thrown, they end up in the ocean which is definitely harmful to life below water as plastic is designed specifically to last for a long time and for clothes, it is only used once before it is disposed of.
Through this process, plastic has released a number of powerful greenhouse gases and fashion takes a huge toll on the environment. Clothes are constantly being made every day non-stop. Textiles; a type of woven fabric, is one of the largest sources of microplastics with approximately 34.8% of microplastic pollution globally, whereas around 700,000 microfibres are released once again, into the ocean.
Before entering the ocean, the microfibres will then enter the sewage system where some are collected, some are too small to be collected by filters or wastewater treatment plants; a treatment plant which is often used as fertilisers on fields which enters the waterways before heading towards the ocean.
In 2019, it has been estimated that nearly 1.4 million trillion microfibres are currently living in the ocean, unable to decompose. What about now? Let’s say if the fashion industry were to continue making more and more clothes, more than 100 million trillion of microfibres which might or will, enter the sea which is dangerous to the marine ecosystem along with human and animal health.
As microfibres are too small and released to the ocean, marine animals and fishes often mistake them for food. This causes them being unable to digest the plastic and almost 90% seabirds are said to have plastic in their stomach, not forgetting turtles and many marine mammals which are killed every day.
How does it affect you? Let’s say, a fish who has ingested plastic which is then caught by a fisherman, where the food chain is then passed on to larger animals or humans and us, ingesting both the fish filled with plastic could cause physical injury, a blockage in the body.
The fashion industry
Just microfibres? What about global wastewater?
The Fashion Industry is responsible for around 20 percent of global wastewater as toxic chemicals used to dye clothes are harmful not only towards the health of workers but towards the oceans and killing fishes.
The top 200 world’s largest fashion brand and retailers, Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Transparency Index which was launched in April 2019 has one of the biggest transparency during their fourth edition as they showcase the amount of environmental impact and last year in April 2020 with their fifth edition, keeping the transparency intact where five key areas are assessed: Policy & Commitments, Governance, Traceability, Know, Show & Fix along with Spotlight Issues where they focused on SDG12; Sustainable Development Goals, Responsible Consumption and Production.
There are brands who disclose the percentage of their products and those who are committed to making a difference such as brands but only a handful. It is said that only 26% of brands are finding ways and solutions to reduce the use of plastic in the fashion industry and to eliminate hazardous chemicals.
Fashion brands and retailers should be obligated to change the mindset of systems and to design products and clothes which are high in quality, long lasting and environment friendly. The true value of clothes is not how beautiful it may be, it’s the quality and how the material has impacted environmentally, along with the main goal of sustainability in mind while flourishing a business.
Time for a Change
At the end of the day, it may just be materials, outfits or clothes, but they need care too. It is suggested that the use of fabric softener and liquid detergent while washing clothes at a low temperature sustains the longevity of clothing as microfibres tend to shed while we wash our clothes with the slogan #WhatsInMyClothes by Fashion Revolution.
There is definitely no simple solution to this but a step to figuring out solutions or to reduce the amount of consumption does go a long way. We need everyone’s power to help the sea and planet from exploiting and a change of system with the help from retailers, brands, governments, citizens and even YOU to help curb the impacts which are harming the oceans and eliminate climate emergencies for the future of OURS, TOGETHER.
“Fashion conserves and restores the environment. It does not deplete precious resources, degrade our soil, pollute our air and water, or harm our health. Fashion protects the welfare of all living things and safeguards our diverse ecosystems”.
Fashion Revolution’s Manifesto