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The Hidden Costs of Creating Fast Fashion

For fast fashion, higher consumption equals handsome profits. But these earnings come at a huge price for the planet and the people that make it. To acknowledge its impact, we took a closer look at the unaccounted costs that go behind creating those coveted £4 fast fashion dresses.

Environmental Cost

We are living in a false economy where the real commercial costs of products, including the economic costs of environmental degradation are not being accounted for in the price of the things we purchase. According to Business Insider, fashion production is responsible for 10% of total global carbon emissions — contributing more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined. In the process of lowering production costs, fast fashion brands end up neglecting sustainable aspects of production. And rampant polyester usage is one of their most favoured ways of bringing down the costs. As a matter of fact, 70 million barrels of oil are used annually to make the world’s polyester fibre, which can take more than 200 years to decompose post-consumer use.

The sector is also notorious for drying up water resources while polluting them to the point of no return. In Bangladesh where most of the leading names in fast fashion have their garments produced, the water streams have turned to a pitch black tar-like consistency. This awful predicament has been a result of all the sludge and sewage discharge that’s produced by textile dyeing and processing factories in the country that have gone on to cause immense stress on their clean drinking water sources. 

Human Cost

Sweatshops in Bangladesh aren’t just facing the environmental brunt of fast fashion production but the economic one as well. Insights from the Fashion Checker campaign claim that 93% of brands surveyed by them aren’t even paying garment workers a living wage. The Condé Nast sustainable glossary defines ‘living wage’ as a decent remuneration for labour that enables workers to meet their basic needs, sustain healthy lifestyles, and support their families. A living wage is a recognised human right, and yet it is denied to most of the estimated 80 million workers in the global fashion industry. 

In an interview with Eco-Age, Ayesha Barenblat (founder of Remake) stated that over $3 billion worth of orders were cancelled at the beginning of the pandemic. Which meant Bangladesh’s 4.1 million workers, a majority of whom are women were furloughed or laid off without severance, savings or access to healthcare. Following this, UK-based fast fashion giant Boohoo came under the scanner for a modern slavery investigation after an undercover investigation found that it’s garment workers in a Leicester factory were paid as little as £3.50 an hour

The pandemic has opened a Pandora’s box of sorts and laid bare the many disturbing issues surrounding fast fashion. And the brands are yet to hold themselves accountable to these ecological and social costs. By not demanding fast fashion to pay for the pollution and destitution caused at the outset, we are distorting the present valuation of our choices. As consumers, the onus is on us to demand better and more sustainable practices. 

Published by: Vibhuti Vazirani/ 2020-12-06

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