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Is TikTok Shop Fuelling the Climate Crisis?

TikTok needs no introduction. The video sharing social media platform is one that lives on many of our phones and occupies our days. It's short and snappy content can leave you scrolling through the app for hours, and many influencers and creators have kickstarted their online influencing journeys through the app. As TikTok has diversified its audience, many new features have been added.

TikTok shop

Something that many of you will be familiar with is TikTok shop. TikTok shop is a marketplace fully integrated in the app that allows creators and influencers to sell products and make money from the platform.

Generation Z, who TikTok is mainly marketed towards, tend to have a great deal of interest in fashion. As a result, many of these shops feature clothing in their portfolio.


Most of the clothes on TikTok shop are priced at ridiculously cheap points. For example:

· A coat for £10

· Bags for £5

Therefore, we must ask the question, where are these garments coming from?

Fast fashion

Fast fashion is addictive and many, if not all of us are guilty of contributing to it. Boohoo, ASOS, Urban Outfitters are some of the names we associate our routine clothes shopping with. Do we ever stop to question where and how these clothes are sourced?

As consumers, we love a good deal and love to know we are getting a bargain. For many, TikTok shop offers this satisfaction. Being able to sit in the comfort of your own home on a familiar app and get a bargain is extremely satisfying to many, and we all know the familiar sensation of retail therapy.

Ethical consequences

However, do the consequences that come from fast fashion lie with the consumer or the producer? The current cost of living crisis that many of us are feeling has led to many having to cut costs. Sustainable clothing comes at a high cost, and with many struggling to even afford to put the heating on or put dinner on the table, it’s no surprise that clothing isn’t a priority for many.

The workers who produce these garments are subjected to horrible conditions, working long hours in unsafe environments for extremely little pay. Vendors that sell items for a low price often contract their production out to unregistered factories that do not have to abide by the law, meaning the production cost stays low. The fast fashion industry is a constant trade-off between morals and value. In 2013, an eight-story garment complex in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka collapsed, killing over 1,100 factory workers. This demonstrates the lack of regard for lives in the fast fashion industry and the lack of safety in the buildings they work in.

These workers are kept in a cycle of poverty, not being offered the same educational opportunities as they would in the West, so finding it difficult to acquire skills other than manual labour. The process of globalisation has made this cycle worse, keeping many 3rd world countries in relative poverty.

Environmental consequences

This lack of regard also translates in the toll taken on the environment. Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world, after oil, with industries like cotton farming and microfibre production requiring huge amounts of water and energy. Between 80 and 100 billion new items of clothing are produced every year, with a large amount being sent to landfill or incinerated.

The fabrics that are used to produce these garments are a combination of materials, such as synthetic fibres like polyester, which are typically associated with low quality clothing. Synthetic fibres break down in washing machines, leading to a build-up of microplastics that work their way into the food chain. This will have lasting effects on the future of ecology.

When TikTok shop vendors are asked on live where the garments are produced, most of them don’t have answers, or give vague ones saying that they are “made in the UK” but cannot provide further detail. Transporting all these garments from developing nations to first world countries such as the UK and USA takes a large environmental toll on the earth.

Changing mindsets

As consumers, we have been conditioned into believing that it is natural to crave the latest things constantly. We are told that a cycle of planned obsolescence is normal and that garments being produced with bad quality need to wear out quicker.

Whether the blame lies on consumers or on the businesses producing these garments, we all need to do better. Movements such as the slow fashion movement and campaigns by fast fashion companies are sparking a desire for change, but a new paradigm shift needs to occur where consumers can buy good quality clothing for reasonable prices, and not face the trade-off between moral and ethical behaviour.


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