Waste Couture: Environmental Impact on the Clothing Industry: An Analysis

The article “Waste Couture: Environmental Impact on the Clothing Industry” serves as an examination of the intersection that globalization, consumerism, and recycling in the global economy. It begins by detailing the life cycle of a garment of clothing from its conception at production, its use, and its eventual disposal. Furthermore, the article discusses the materials used to create clothing garments. Polyester, for example, has increased in use in the past 15 years, despite the fact that its manufacture is extremely energy-intensive, requiring large amounts of crude oil. Similarly, cotton — one of the most versatile and utilized fibers — has an astronomical environmental footprint. The crop accounts for large portions of the total pesticide use in various countries and has incredibly high water demands. Much of the cotton produced in countries like the US are exported to Global South countries for milling and clothing production. Here, workers’ salaries are depressingly low; in some cases, it as little as 12–18 cents per hour as was the case with some Chinese workers reported on in the article. To help assuage the environmental impact of the fashion industry, the author stresses the importance and the spirit of conservation. Many articles of clothing end up in landfills, however, many pieces of clothing no longer suffer that fate. The article explores three ways in which clothing is recycled: clothing is resold to other consumers, clothing is exported in bulk sale to countries in the Global South, and or is chemically or mechanically recycled into raw materials to utilize in the production of other goods. The author then provides an assorted list of possible solutions or remediations to the problem of apparel waste and environmentally unsustainable production. The first is to use organically grown cotton, hemp, bamboo, and similar crops to create clothing as they require less pesticides and irrigation. Eco-fashion is currently a prominent trend, and is spearheaded by the company Patagonia, a major clothing retailer. Another approach is to use polymers created from plant-based materials to prevent the breakdown of plastic polymers.

This article was an easy read that was extremely informative and offered a well-rounded approach to conceptualizing the environmental impacts of the apparel industry. It gave pertinent information concerning the water usage of various crops used in the apparel industry for garments, as well as relevant information concerning the working conditions of those who are part of the apparel industry structure. Most importantly, in my opinion, the article outlined possible solutions and alternatives to the current model of production. It evaluated sustainability and visibility of corporations and the solutions in order to give realistic goals and outcomes for these changes. The heading of “Fashion Forward” was truly fitting as it encapsulated the concept of moving forward in a more progressive manner. The first solution explored was the sustainable growth of crops, which would hopefully be able to infiltrate the market, though only 0.03% of organic cotton represents worldwide cotton production. Plant-based polymers are also a viable solution. Materials such as Ingen is made of corn byproducts and is compostable, which would lessen the burden on landfills, and prevent the mass shipment of clothing to foreign countries as a form of disposal. The most hard-hitting solution, however, is regulation. Legislation requiring clothing manufacturers and importers to identify and quantify the chemicals used in their products would serve as a way to ensure consumer protection and knowledge.

Overall, this article was extremely informative. While it lacked detailed, scientific information concerning the environmental impact of the fashion industry in favor of focusing on social and socio-economic problems, it still provided relevant facts and numbers when necessary. Furthermore, it provided a well-rounded argument concerning the environmental and social damages that the fashion industry renders on the globe and within communities. I think that it ends on a strong call-to-action as a persuasive piece. Most of all, however, this article was important in rounding out my understanding of the context of the fashion industry and its environmental links.

Claudio, Luz. “Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry.” ProQuest. Environment Health Perspectives, Sept. 2007. Web.


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