New Oxfam study points towards the shocking impact of fast fashion

Read Time:   |  30th August 2019

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New clothes bought in the UK produce more carbon emissions per minute than driving a car around the world six times, signalling fast fashion crisis. 

fast fashion oxfam

A shocking report released today by global charity Oxfam, has revealed the devastating consequences of our relationship with cheap, fast fashion. Their study has revealed that the total emissions from all clothes bought in the UK, every second, are equivalent to driving a car from London to the Costa del Sol and back. The statistics produced by Oxfam are based on lifetime emissions for new clothing bought in the UK, including sourcing raw materials, manufacturing, production, transport, washing and disposal.

Around the world 360 times per hour

Nearly 50 tonnes of carbon emissions are produced every minute from our current buying patterns. Staggeringly, this translates into two tonnes of clothing purchased in the UK, every single minute. A statistic which equates to driving around the world 360 times every hour.

It is extremely apparent that our modern-day throwaway society is becoming increasingly complacent with buying cheap clothing. A habit which might not put the buyer out of pocket, but will undoubtedly end up costing the earth. This clothing is often poorly made, cutting corners in every way to save on production costs, reeking environmental and human welfare havoc during the production process as a result.

Oxfam’s study continues to stagger. In one month,  the emissions from new clothes which are bought is greater than those from flying a plane around the world 900 times.

Oxfam explains how an item of clothing could travel 21748 miles before reaching the consumer in the UK. A cotton garment will begin life as a plant, originating from a cotton field in the U.S. From here, it will be sent to production units in Bangladesh, after which the garment will undergo a shipment to Germany, and finally to the customer in the UK. And all for £25 or less! Oh how we all wish air travel for humans was as affordable.

Despite these huge figures and ridiculous feats of travel , a study of 1,000 British adults cited by Oxfam found 53 % are not aware fast fashion is damaging to the environment at all.

The True Cost

fast fashion cotton

But it is not only pollution which is causing Oxfam to be concerned by the UK’s wasteful relationship with clothing. Cheap buying costs in the UK is likely to reflect the exploitation and poor working wages of those in lesser developed communities, whom are paid below the living wage, simply to produce the garments we wear. Further adding to the issue, is the fact that we are all becoming increasingly disconnected with the people who make our clothes, with 97% of our garments being manufactured abroad.

Workers are often underpaid, yet supply the richest parts of the world with some of the cheapest clothing. Oxfam’s says: “The poorest people in the world who did the least to cause climate change are suffering most. The richest 10% of world are responsible for around 50 per cent of global emissions, while the poorest half are responsible for 10%.”

Make a difference this Second-Hand September

Danny Sriskandarajah, Oxfam’s Chief Executive comments on the fast fashion industry: “These staggering facts about fashion’s impact on the planet and the world’s poorest people should make us all think twice before buying something new to wear. We are in a climate emergency – we can no longer turn a blind eye to the emissions produced by new clothes or turn our backs on garment workers paid a pittance who are unable to earn their way out of poverty no matter how many hours they work.”

This September, Oxfam are encouraging you to pledge to stop buying new clothes, and opt to re-use and re-love second-hand clothing. The pledge is designed to help consumers to re-assess their relationships with throw-away fashion, in the hopes of reducing 11 million garments each week that the UK alone throw away into landfill.

Sriskandarajah adds: “As consumers, it’s in our power to make a real difference. Buying second-hand clothes helps to slow the ferocious fast fashion cycle, giving garments a second lease of life. By taking part in Oxfam’s Second Hand September, we are also sending a clear message to the clothing industry that we don’t want to buy clothes that harm our planet and the people in it.”

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