Fashion Wastage is every woman’s problem.
This is an article topic that I have had sitting in my Ideas List for about a year. I’ve watched with growing interest the new ideas that are surfacing about recycling clothes as well as the sharing and renting of fashion items.
While I was in Canberra, I missed a 3-part series on the ABC about the ‘War on Waste’ by Craig Reucassel. The episode that interested me most was Episode 3 on ‘The Fast Fashion Waste Problem in Australia’. This week I finally googled it and found three short videos on ABC iview. You can watch them til 29 June.
Below are some observations from that episode and my thoughts as it relates to today’s Baby Boomer women.
Fashion Wastage – The Scary Facts
Craig states that fashion is one of the fastest growing waste problems in Australia (and probably the rest of the world too). Women and men are spending over $5 billion a year on fashion while over half a million tonnes a year ends up in landfill. The photo above from one of the videos graphically demonstrates that we throw out 6 tonnes (ie 6 000 kg) every 10 minutes in Australia.
Craig visited the Smith Family recycling warehouse in Sydney. Its Manager stated that, of the 13 million kilos of clothing donated to them each year, only 3-4% goes to their retail store for resale. Of the rest, 60% is sent overseas and a small amount is sold as industrial rags. 30% of the clothes donated to them – often flimsy, cheap and unusable – goes to landfill at a cost of $1 million a year to the charity. That’s $1 million that could be spent on helping others. Add in all the other charity organisations out there and a lot of money is spent dumping unusable clothing.
The episode quoted that young people may throw out up to 60% of what they buy every year. I was amazed when the four young women in the three videos on this topic admitted to social media pressure. They believed that ‘if I’ve put a photo of one outfit on social media, I can’t wear it again to a place or event where my friends will meet me in person.’ Wow! I am certainly out of touch with young women.
It’s not simply the cost of landfill. It’s also the planet’s resources (especially water) that are needed to create these throw-aways that become our gigantic fashion wastage problem.
But, you say, I don’t think like that. I am older and wiser. Are you?
Fashion Wastage – We Are All Responsible
I am the last to judge. The fashions for older women may cost more. But it still fast fashion – relatively cheap, not good quality and meant to be changed at least each month. Yes I have the cheapie clothes from Kmart and Big W. Do I wear them until I cut them into polishing rags?
Let me tell you a story.
During our recent holiday in Canberra, we went with our friends and another couple for 5 days at a lighthouse keeper’s cottage at Point Hicks. It’s remote there (4-wheel drive territory) and we had to take all our own food. Off to Costco we went. While at Costco the other two women found a cheap $10 fleecy top and thought it would be fun if all three of us bought them. I wasn’t fussed on the dull colour but I bought into the game. Here are two of us in our matching tops. The top is warm when worn inside with a fire or a heater going. I wore it in the car when we returned to Canberra and on one of the days driving home to Brisbane. I’d had my $10 of wear (and fun) from it; so I was contemplating how to dispose of it.
Two weeks of wear and I throw it out. Not very responsible of me. Would it be sold, go overseas or end up in landfill? I don’t know. It’s definitely an ‘inside home only’ top in my eyes. I’ve decided to keep it and wear it now and in the future. The top has no future as a polishing rag. Eventually (2020?) I’ll put it in a rubbish bag and it will go secretly to landfill. Yes, secret dumping still contributes to our fashion wastage problem.
We all have lots of stories of fashion disasters and fashion wastage. Add to this the never-worn or rarely-worn items all around your home and the racks and racks of unsold clothes in retail shops that don’t sell even on special discounts – AND you have a mountain of clothes that are sitting waiting to add to our future wastage problems.
Fashion Wastage – What Can You Do
The best any of us can do is look carefully at our own fashion experience. We all have different lives. I believe there is no ‘one solution fits everyone’.
Every little thing we consciously do helps.
You can –
- Swap clothes.
- Shop at recycled clothing stores.
- Shop discount outlets.
- Think twice before you purchase anything.
- Sell on eBay or second chance outlets.
- Decide to lose those kilos instead of continually buying larger sizes and promising to lose the weight one day.
- Giving clothes to family or friends is only a good idea if they truly want them. Most women find it difficult to say ‘no’ assertively. Often this only shifts the wastage problem from one woman to another.
- You can make your feelings known about all the ‘same-same’ clothes that appear in many shops.
- Or you can seek help with cutting down your wardrobe. You can learn more about yourself with me or another Image Consultant so that you buy more of what looks great on you and less on fashion wastage.
I stopped doing personal de-cluttering sessions many years ago because of the amount of clothes women had. It didn’t solve their problem. So I started teaching de-cluttering skills. Now I am finding the same problems when I go to do a wardrobe consultation. There is only a limited amount of service I can give as often clients have too many clothes squashed together and in too many different places. This makes finding new combinations quite difficult. In future anyone who wants to work with me will have to declutter before I will visit.
How will you contribute to lessening your own and western society’s fashion wastage problem? There are practical, financial and emotional advantages in changing your buying and dressing habits.
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