Fast fashion can be incredibly damaging to the environment. Image: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
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Each year, 200 million pounds (90.7 million kg) of clothing ends up in New York City’s landfill sites – the equivalent of filling the Statue of Liberty with garments 440 times.
To combat the massive problem of clothing waste, fashion brands, authorities, collectors, recyclers and resale companies are working with the #WearNext campaign to collect donations from across the city, to give old clothes a new lease of life.
The campaign is part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative, which is leading a global effort to establish a circular business model for the apparel industry.
“As customers, we know where we buy our clothes and we know where we have worn them, but #WearNext is about the next stage of that journey – where do our clothes go when we have finished with them?” explains Francois Souchet, Make Fashion Circular lead.
Between 4 March and 9 June, New Yorkers can drop off their old clothes at participating stores and other locations across the city. And to make donating easier, the NYC Department of Sanitation has created an online map of 1,100 collection points.
The campaign, which has support from major brands including Gap, Banana Republic, ASOS and Zara, encourages the city’s population to swap, sell or repair their old clothes and post their experiences on social media using the #WearNext hashtag.
Changing the model
Over the past two decades a “fast fashion” business model has developed where brands and retailers have adopted a quick turnaround of trends at low prices.
Consumer appetite for the latest trends alongside rising global income levels have led to a rapid increase in clothing sales. Meanwhile the average number of times a garment is worn before being discarded has fallen.
It is estimated that 73% of the materials used to make clothes end up in landfill or are burned at the end of their life, while just 1% of old garments are turned into new ones.
In addition to the problem of waste, the fashion industry also uses vast amounts of water, energy and chemicals like fertilizer and dyes in its production processes.
The total annual greenhouse gas emissions from textile production reached 1.2 billion metric tons in 2015.
Campaigners are calling for the industry to adopt more ethical and sustainable practices. The Make Fashion Circular initiative promotes business initiatives that ensure clothes are made from safe and renewable materials, that increase the wearing of clothes and promote the use of old garments to make new ones.
But consumers also have an important role to play in tackling fast fashion – by buying fewer clothes and wearing them for longer.
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
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