New analysis reveals it would take less than a year for the amount of clothing that is tossed to landfill, to equal the distance to the moon
● 64% of all garments produced globally each year end up in landfill. ● 94 million kg worth of single-use outfits are bought every year with 1 in 2 people throwing away unwanted clothes directly into the bin instead of reselling them or repurposing them. ● Man-made fabrics like polyester and nylon can take up to 200 years to break down in landfill, in comparison linen takes two weeks to break down naturally. ● Index included reveals the best and worst materials used in fashion. ● Interactive visual tool created for Earth Day demonstrates shocking statistics on how much fashion industry waste is added to landfills every few seconds.
Childrenswear brand FIVE OF US have examined and created a visualized interactive page for Earth Day that demonstrates just how much the fashion industry contributes to landfill each year. The interactive page compares the volume of clothing in landfill to some of the world’s most well-known landmarks. It comes as latest statistics reveal that of the 32 billion garments produced for the fashion industry each year, a whopping 64% of these will end up in landfill 1.
This gross amount of waste is due in part to the 94m kg worth of single-use outfits bought every year and partially due to the 1 in 2 people who throw unwanted clothes directly into the bin 1 instead of reselling them or re-purposing them; because of this, it is estimated that the fashion industry (and its supply chain) is the planet’s 3rd largest polluter after food and construction 1.
As you scroll through the interactive and educational page, users are asked the question “if we stacked up all the fashion landfill created in a 12 month period, how tall of a ladder would you need to climb to the top?” On-screen are statistics on fashion industry waste compared to well-known landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Burj Khalifa, Mount Everest, The International Space Station, and even the moon, to give context to the amount of waste. Space? That’s because the amount of clothing that is thrown to landfill every 6 hours is equivalent to the distance from Earth to the International Space Station.
Queralt Ferrer, experienced fashion director and founder of Five of Us commented saying: “At FIVE OF US, we don’t pretend to have the solution to the problem that is sustainability in the fashion industry, but we do believe that our “made to order” model is one responsible step in the right direction to reduce the problem of overproduction.”
“While the fashion industry as a whole contributes more than a trillion dollars worth of waste to landfill every year, we rarely talk about how children’s fashion contributes to this. I think one of the key areas missing in sustainability in fashion conversation is educating the next generation on how to shop and consume with sustainability in mind. More than 3.15 billion articles of children’s clothing are thrown away every year - almost half the amount of menswear, and a third of women’s 2. It’s a huge problem, and this is why we believe that it is never too early to start educating our children about sustainability, and about where their clothing comes from (and ends up).”
How can the “Made to Order” model help solve the sustainability issue in fashion?
Queralt shared her thoughts saying “Clearly, by only producing what has been ordered, you ensure there is no over-production and that should result into lower waste. This is a small step within the wider issue, but every bit sums up. We focus on quality and longevity, also aiming to design pieces that will last longer, that will be able to be passed on, re-purposed, which again, will contribute further to lower waste and better impact on the environment.”
“Furthermore, more contemporary, less seasonal and more versatile collections across the year is something that all the industry could think more of. At Five of Us, our designs are created to be equally dressed up or down. Either to go and play in the park or to attend a special occasion venue.”
An additional concern the fashion industry faces when it comes to sustainability is how long many of the materials used by manufacturers take to decompose.
Five of Us have created a materials index to show the best and worst materials when it comes to sustainability.
The index ranks the best and worst materials with the worst scoring the highest score and the best scoring the lowest score. While sustainably sourced fabrics like cottons, silks and recycled fabrics break down naturally over time, most brands often turn to cheaper, man-made fabrics to make lower-cost garments. Unfortunately for the environment, this can be catastrophic. Acrylic fibers such as polyester and nylons can take anywhere from 40 to 200 years to break down in landfill, leaving a carbon footprint of up to 11.53kg of CO2e per 2sqm 3.
Queralt adds: “Sustainability goes beyond the raw materials or how they are produced, it is about putting it at the core of everything you do and the educational efforts you build around it. Because when you really value the clothes you have, they will last longer and in turn will have a positive impact on the environment. This is why our collections are based on a made-to-order model, use responsibly sourced materials and are custom-designed to last.”
Sources: 1: Work Cited “Fashion Industry Environmental, Waste, and Recycle Statistics.” EDGE, https://edgexpo.com/fashion-industry-waste-statistics/. - Report produced 2021 - Accessed 28 January 2022 - secondary data 2 - “More than 3.15 billion articles of children’s clothing are thrown away every year - almost half the amount of menswear, and a third of women’s” Calculations and data found here https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1BzVO-UKq17PhaU6A33tYDsQPJNDVwwrSLowngQ8WGmQ/edit#gid=0 3 - This paragraph contains multiple sources: All sources can be found here - https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1D6fjGhHY2tJbt60EPA6jJ7Gby2QRMLbXEmCh2O540UY/edit?usp=sharing