Who is paying the price for fast, cheap fashion?

Fashion giants like Shein and H&M are adding more and more fashion lines to their collections at a pace that is faster than we have ever seen before. But, while we are completely drawn to the fast changing and incredibly cheap styles that can be worn once and thrown away – do we really know what the real cost is to the environment and to the garment workers who make them? Particularly if they only cost us a couple of pounds?

Fashion has long had a been associated with climate change and terrible working conditions in sweatshops particularly in places like Bangladesh and China but why is this allowed to continue?

The environmental impact of fast fashion is huge, far bigger than the damage caused by international flights. The chemicals used to dye the textiles that make cheaper clothes are the worst offenders, polluting the rivers and water, and contaminating soil and groundwater. Another big climate offender is the disposal of unwanted clothing. Its reported that we throw away £140 Million pounds worth of wearable clothes a year. Many of those clothes are dumped in huge mounds in poorer countries which, with the cheaper synthetic fibres, will take around 200 years to decompose.

Swedish high street giant H&M was one of the main fashion brands involved in the discovery of tonnes of clothes dumped in a Chilean desert. Even though H&M weren’t the only clothes found dumped there, they were responsible for a majority of the clothes on that site. H&M are reportedly making attempts to improve policies surrounding the impact of their fast fashion on the environment. However, the ethical values of how the clothes are made are still causing concern, with reports of abuse of garment workers, low wages and forced labour, and factories with Health & Safety issues. While it does have plans a foot to improve ethnicity of where its fast fashion is made, according to some, if and when those plans are taken forward seems a bit unclear.

We could all do our bit to help by buying sustainable fashion rather than fast fashion. Last month The European Union got on board by announcing steps it will take to stop fashion companies making misleading claims about the impact of their clothes on the environment so people know what they are buying and the item’s journey. But sounds a bit like baby steps to us …

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