Fashion industry's role in plastic pollution - Insights for Earth Day 2024


By Shingo Tsukamoto, President of online sizing technology specialist, Makip.

Each year, a startling 60% of the 32 billion garments produced globally are dumped into landfills. This is equivalent to 650 clothing items discarded every second. 

The theme for this year’s Earth Day (22 April) was 'Planet vs. Plastics', and I have to draw attention to the fashion industry's heavy reliance on synthetic materials and its significant contribution to plastic pollution.

Plastic pollution is a major threat to ecosystems as tiny fibres pollute water and food sources. Addressing this requires united action.

More major retailers need to prioritise sustainable practices, not just the independent eco-conscious retailers that we have seen grow in popularity in recent years. However, consumers can also make a difference by shopping with brands that have eco-friendly credentials and promote responsible consumption.               

So much of the existing retail industry is reliant on irresponsible consumption. Take the example of ASOS, which just last week found itself wrestling with surplus stock, necessitating substantial markdowns. As a result, the company witnessed an 18% dip in adjusted first-half revenue, totalling a £1.5 billion shortfall.

So what are the solutions? One example is the increased use of highly accurate online sizing technology, which can help reduce returns by at least 20%. The advancement of online sizing technology not only improves the shopping experience but also reduces the need for Retailers to keep a lot of items in stock. 

Accurate sizing technology ensures that customers purchase clothing that fits them perfectly on the first try, eliminating the need for multiple shipping and return cycles and consequently reducing the impact of carbon emissions associated with return transportation and processing. A valuable contribution when you consider that approximately 300,000 tonnes of clothes are burned or buried in landfill each year in the UK alone.

It has also been reported that fashion is responsible for between two and eight per cent of global carbon emissions and in 12 months, this could account for 25% of the world's carbon budget, which is second only to oil production!

By embracing technology, the fashion industry can not only reduce waste but bolster its dedication to delivering eco-conscious solutions that resonate with modern consumers.

Industry leaders, policymakers and consumers must join forces to drive systemic change and promote sustainability in fashion. Collaboration is key to implementing effective solutions that address environmental challenges and foster ethical practices across the industry.

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