A recent ABC news report suggests Australians should think twice about buying new clothes, especially those made from synthetic fibres.
Sustainability consultant Jane Milburn says the “excessive purchasing” of ‘fast fashion’ has major environmental implications and that Australians
need to start thinking more about how we can reduce our clothing and textile footprint.
Australia’s textile consumption key facts:
- Australians are the world’s second largest consumers of textiles
- Australians buy on average 27 kilograms per person of new clothing and other textiles each year
- The global average textile consumption is 13 kilograms per person per year
- Two-thirds of the clothes and textiles bought in Australia are made of synthetic fibres which are derived from petroleum
- Wastage in the supply chain: Up to 20 per cent of fabric consumption is on the cutting room floor
Synthetic clothes: cheap and washable but bad news for the environment
While textiles made of natural fibres are biodegradable, synthetic clothing is effectively another form of plastic, which not only takes years to decay, it also sheds thousands of micro plastic particles when washed or disposed of in landfill (and anyone who saw the recent Four Corners episode on microplastics will know this is not a good thing for our oceans).
But it’s not as simple as boycotting synthetic clothes and just buying clothes made of natural fibres. Natural fabrics are often chemically treated and dyed and therefore can still release chemicals into the air and soil as they decompose.
And any fabric produced using large scale agriculture (crops &/or animals) presents its own range of significant environmental and ethical issues. See: leather, cotton, down, bamboo, cashmere and wool for examples.
So, what can we do?
In the words of Vivienne Westwood: “Buy less, choose well”.
- Decrease consumption: buy less new clothing full stop
- Re-use existing resources! Shop at second hand and vintage stores
- If buying new clothing, try to invest in things that will last
- Instead of throwing away a worn out/damaged piece of clothing (or donating it to the op shop) learn how to make repairs to extend its lifespan.
I agree with Jane Millburn that we should stop treating clothing as disposable. We should learn about how much work actually goes into making a piece of clothing. We should value each item of clothing we buy and consider the resources and raw materials that have been used to make it.
Had you ever considered the environmental implications of the clothes you buy?
Would you consider changing your clothes shopping habits for the sake of the environment?