“It encourages the obsolescence of these garments because it constantly creates consumer demand for these new items. It is therefore estimated that we are currently producing around one billion new garments each year.
With an average Australian who buys 27kg of new clothes and throws away 23kg each year, Australia is the second largest consumer of textiles per person in the world, behind the United States, the Australian Department of Health has reported. Agriculture, Water and Environment.
“It’s not just the environmental impact, like who’s paying for the cost of these cheaper clothes,” Brydges said. “It’s also a matter of social sustainability, because we know that clothing production has been outsourced to low-cost, low-wage producers, with probably women doing this kind of work.”
To keep clothing prices low, fast fashion production is often outsourced to overseas factories, where there is little oversight of working conditions.
“When you get into it, local charity shops have really become a key player in trying to divert some of this waste from landfill, but there’s not much they can do,” Brydges said.
A study by Charitable Recycling Australia found that 16.5% of textiles donated to charity shops are resold.
Second-hand shopping has become more fashionable in recent years, especially among younger consumers. In 2019, about 40% of Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012) said they bought second-hand outfits, resale site ThredUp said.
Meanwhile, nine in 10 Gen Z consumers believe that “businesses have a responsibility to address environmental and social issues,” according to a 2019 report from McKinsey.
Growing concern over sustainable shopping has yet to slow the number of fast fashion donations being transported to op-shops, which end up with the task of keeping clothes out of landfills.
“[Fast fashion donations] are all happening in increasing amounts, I’ve definitely noticed over the past two months,” said customer experience representative for The Salvation Army, Aife O’Loughlin.
“The way fast fashion is made means it’s probably not as durable. It’s complicated, but it’s produced and sold, so the more we avoid burying the better.
“There will always be a consumer of fast fashion at this point. Our goal is to keep items in use as much as possible.
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