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By the Numbers: The Economic, Social and Environmental Impacts of “Fast Fashion”

By Elizabeth Reichart & Deborah Drew ~ World Resources Institute

Think about how many sweaters, scarves and other clothes were given as gifts this holiday season. How many times will people wear them before throwing them out?

Probably far fewer than you think. One garbage truck of clothes is burned or sent to landfills every second! The average consumer bought 60 percent more clothes in 2014 than in 2000, but kept each garment for half as long.

Gone are the days when people would buy a shirt and wear it for years. 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 to consumers through shorter fashion cycles.

This 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:

The Economics

According to the Ellen McArthur 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.

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