A Cheap T-shirt is a Costly Problem

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VERY many thanks to John Riddle, Sr VP, Frontier Spinning Mills for sending us this article. Like us, John told us that it was not that he agreed with the numbers but simply that we need to read what our customer base is seeing about our industry

A cheap T-shirt is a costly problem
dallasnews.com, 1/26/19
Think hard about what you put on before leaving the house this morning. How many times will you wear that shirt, those pants, that dress, before throwing them out?

Probably far fewer than you think. One garbage truck of discarded clothes is burned or sent to landfills every second. That means that every two days, the world discards or burns enough clothing to fill AT&T Stadium. We could fill Dallas's White Rock Lake twice each month with the world's trashed apparel.

Gone are the days when people would buy a shirt and wear it for years. The average consumer bought 60 percent more clothes in 2014 than in 2000, but kept each garment for half as long. In a world of accelerating demand for apparel, consumers want — and can increasingly afford — new clothing after wearing garments only a few times. Entire business models are built on the premise of "fast fashion," providing clothes cheaply and quickly through shorter fashion cycles.

It's a global problem, and a local one. Dallas residents discard more than 9 million tons of materials into landfills every year, according to a report by the Texas Campaign for the Environment Fund. More than 5 percent of it is textile waste.

But this isn't just a waste story. The linear fashion model of buying, wearing and quickly discarding clothes negatively impacts people and the planet's resources. Here's a look at the economic, social and environmental implications.

Economics
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, clothing production has approximately doubled in the last 15 years, driven by a growing middle-class population across the globe and increased per capita sales in developed economies. An expected fourfold increase in world GDP by 2050 will drive even greater demand for clothing.

The economic loss from fashion waste is tremendous. The annual value of clothing discarded prematurely is more than $400 billion globally. North Texas is literally burying tens of millions of dollars in recoverable materials each year, according to the annual Texas Campaign for the Environment State of Recycling report.

Early research also shows the economic benefits of slowing fast fashion down. Though the economic externalities are difficult to quantify, one report showed that addressing environmental and social problems created by the fashion industry would provide a $192 billion overall benefit to the global economy by 2030.

Several North Texas cities like Aubrey, Little Elm, Corinth, The Colony, Lancaster, Bedford, Haltom City, Richland Hills and, most recently, Plano have adopted curbside collection for textiles. Higher quality textiles are sorted and sold to resale stores, while lower quality materials may be cut up and used as rags in auto shops or mining operations.

While recycling textiles is a step in the right direction and helps divert waste from landfills in the short term, it does not address the resource consumption associated with unsustainable clothing production.

Environmental
Apparel production is resource- and emissions-intensive. Making a pair of Levis jeans, according to the Environmental Protection Agency emissions calculator, produces as much greenhouse gases as driving a car more than 80 miles.

Discarded clothing made of non-biodegradable fabrics can sit in landfills for up to 200 years.

And because cotton is a particularly water-intensive crop, it takes 2,700 liters of water to make just one cotton shirt, enough to meet the average person's drinking needs for two-and-a-half years.

Social
While clothing production has helped spur growth in developing economies, it's also created a number of social challenges.

Garment workers, primarily women, in Bangladesh make about $96 per month. The government's wage board suggests that a garment worker needs 3.5 times that amount in order to live a "decent life with basic facilities."

A 2018 U.S. Department of Labor report found evidence of forced and child labor in the fashion industry in Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Turkey, Vietnam and other countries.

Rapid consumption of apparel and the need to deliver short fashion cycles stresses production resources, often resulting in supply chains that put profits ahead of human welfare. Read More

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