In a report on recent research in this area, Hickman (2008) states that, "Although the public recycle newspapers and bottles, only one eighth of clothes are recycled through charity shops
About 70 per cent goes straight to landfill or incineration" (Hickman). This is telling example, of the way that Fast Fashion can affect the environment.
The fact that these fashions are relatively cheap means that they are more easily discarded that would be the case with more expensive garments. Furthermore, the finding that almost all discarded Fast Fashion is not ecologically processed in an environmentally friendly way is a central factor that will be explored in detail.
The same study by Hickman referred to above contributes to the overall picture of the potentially negative outcomes of Fast Fashion in countries like the United Kingdom. " Waste volumes from the sector are high and growing in the UK with the advent of fast fashion...On average UK consumers send 30kg of clothing and textiles per capita to landfill each year" (Hickman).
As a result of these reports there have been calls from the media and other quarters for a greater awareness of the impact of Flash Fashion. "Buy less!" is just the clarion call that campaigners for a greener and more sustainable fashion industry have been waiting to hear (Holt, 2008). This view is also bolstered by the realization of the link between fashion, consumerism and negative environmental aspects. "We are buying a third more clothes than we were a decade ago. Every year we buy around 2m tonnes, and about 1.5m tonnes end up in landfill. The clothing industry is a close rival to the chemical industry in its levels of pollution" (Holt, 2008). As a result, many of the main stakeholders and players in the industry are urgently suggesting that a more cautious strategy should be devised to deal with the increasing amount of clothing that is being consumed. The view is echoed by the head of the London College of Fashion, Dr. Frances Corner. "We have to think more carefully before we buy, we have to buy fewer clothes anyway, and pay more for them" (Holt, 2008)
Among the findings that will be explored and discussed in this dissertations is the fact that "...fast fashion leaves a pollution footprint, with each step of the clothing life cycle generating potential environmental and occupational hazards" (Luz). An example given is the fact that the most common fiber used for the manufacture of flash fashions is polyester. This material is made from petroleum, which immediately raise pollution concerns. Furthermore,
The manufacture of polyester and other synthetic fabrics is an energy-intensive process requiring large amounts of crude oil and releasing emissions including volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and acid gases such as hydrogen chloride, all of which can cause or aggravate respiratory disease. Volatile monomers, solvents, and other by-products of polyester production are emitted in the wastewater from polyester manufacturing plants. The EPA, under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, considers many textile manufacturing facilities to be hazardous waste generators.
There are also concerns that other materials used in the manufacture of clothing may also have negative environmental outcomes. For instance, cotton which is one of the most versatile and often-used materials in the clothing industry has also been found to have environmental implications. " as Claudio Luz (2007) emphasizes,
This crop accounts for a quarter of all the pesticides used in the United States, the largest exporter of cotton in the world, according to the USDA. The U.S. cotton crop benefits from subsidies that keep prices low and production high. The high production of cotton at subsidized low prices is one of the first spokes in the wheel that drives the globalization of fashion.
As has been briefly referred to above, calls for greater consumer awareness of the problem of the impact of Fast Fashion on environmental issues has been heard from many quarters. The following extract from a speech by Joan Ruddock MP to the Rite Group International Conference and Exhibition, London (10 October 2007) is a good example of this call for a greater awareness of the problem.
In the last 10 years, the amount spent on clothing and textiles, in this country, has grown by 34% and stands at approximately £38 billion, representing around 2 million tonnes per annum. I know this is probably good for some of your businesses but, as we know, it can have an impact in other areas. it's clear that many of Britain's shoppers have bought into the rather unsustainable idea of fast fashion....But this 'fast fashion' comes at a cost. Cheap to produce fashion items can be thrown in the bin after being worn just two or three times, adding to the already enormous mountain of waste that this country produces.So we need to look closely at this trend and see if there is any way of reducing its impacts. (Speech by Joan Ruddock MP speech to the Rite Group International Conference and Exhibition, London, 2007)
The extent to which calls to look "at any way of reducing its impacts" has been heeded by the consumer is an issue that has not yet been clearly defined, measured or established in the literature. This will be a central trajectory of this dissertation and an attempt will be made in this study to add to the much needed research in this area.
Among the many articles, studies are reports that attempt to gauge the relationship between Fast Fashion and environmental friendliness and sustainability is, ANALYSIS: Do consumer concerns threaten Fast Fashion? (2007). The views in the article act as an important springboard for future discussion and analysis. For example, " Most apparel retailers and brand owners believe there's widespread consumer concern about human rights and the environmental impact of the clothes they wear." (ANALYSIS: Do consumer concerns threaten Fast Fashion? 2007). However, the article also points to the opposing view that consumer concern will be dampened and negated by the "demands of fashion" and the popularity and ease of access to Fast Fashions. The two sides of this debate are important considerations in the overall analysis of the impact of Flash Fashion.
Many studies also ask the question, " Does all this really matter to the average consumer?" (ANALYSIS: Do consumer concerns threaten Fast Fashion? 2007). There are theories and predictions that in the future the media focus on global warming will make both retailers and customers more aware of the problems surrounding Fast Fashion and that this will translate into actions to counter these problems. However, the dictates of the market and consumer demand are factors that possibly militate against these more optimistic projections.
The increase in consume awareness of the problem is reiterated by Markkula (2007). She states that there are signs in the media and from various reports of an increased cognizance of the link between Fast Fashion and the environment. There is a sense in which the consumer is becoming more aware of issues that goes beyond the popularity of cheap fashion. This view is also noted by Rushton (2007) in an article entitled, Swap drop: Fashion goes green. "We love clothes but over the past couple of years we have forgotten our morals and better judgment in favor of cheap fashion...." (Rushton).
Aims, objectives and limitations
One of the central aims of this dissertation will be to investigate if the views about an increase in consumer awareness of the problem of Fast Fashion and environmental damage are typical or atypical. Allied with this aim is the objective of adding and contributing to the body of knowledge and research on this topic. This refers to the fact that many expert are calling for a reassessment of the fashion industry in the light of sustainability. " Little attention has been paid so far on sustainable consumption as regards fashion and clothing sector...." and,
The sustainability of fashion and clothing sector has remained quite untouched....Both sustainable production and consumption related to this sector need to be critically re-discussed in order to reach environmental, economical, and social sustainability. This said, also the current fashion consumption practices would need to be reformed.
The central objective of this study to thoroughly peruse the available literature, both online and offline, in order to asses the extent of the problem as it relates to various environment issue and to ascertain through this analysis the extent of consumer awareness and reaction to the issue. These objectives will be further elaborated on in the methodology section.
However, these objectives and aims will of necessity have to include a wide range of variables. Consequently, there are some obvious limitations to this study that must be acknowledged. In the first instance, the extent of the variables will have to be limited. The two central variables that will be considered are the extent of environmental damage causes by Flash Fashion and, secondly, the responses in both…