The global textile industry is a multi-dollar industry currently worth nearly $3,000 trillion. The industry has seen a boom in the last 20 years as clothing production doubled between 2000 and 2014. The average consumer is believed to buy 60% more pieces of garments than they did 15 years ago.
Unfortunately, the more we buy, the less we’re wearing our clothes leading to increased fashion waste. This has seen the clothing and textile industry take the third position in the list of the largest polluters in the world.
The effects of the fast fashion industry are far-reaching. Let’s take a look at some of the top fashion waste statistics to illuminate the effects of the textile industry on the environment.
We’ll also explore a few things that you can do to ensure that your love for fashion does not cause further harm to the planet.
- Textile and Fashion Waste Statistics
- 1. The fashion industry accounts for 2% of the world’s GDP
- 2. The average consumer buys 60% more clothing items every year
- 3. Americans spend almost $2,000 on fashion items
- 4. The US produces over 17 million tons of textile waste every year
- 5. 1 in 2 people throw their clothes in the trash
- 6. Clothes take decades to degrade
- 7. Britons have unworn clothes worth $46.7 billion
- 8. If you were to wear your clothes longer you’d reduce clothing waste by up to 10%
- 9. Consumers recycle clothes less than manufacturers
- 10. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions
- 11. It takes 5,000 gallons of water to produce just one T-shirt and a pair of jeans
- 12. Textile industry pays peanuts despite being a multi-dollar industry
- How to Help Reduce Fashion & Textile Waste
- How much waste does fast fashion produce?
- How does fashion waste impact the environment?
Textile and Fashion Waste Statistics
Clothing waste statistics take us closer to understanding how our fashion habits and the fashion manufacturing processes affect us and the environment. Here are a few notable statistics.
1. The fashion industry accounts for 2% of the world’s GDP
The global fashion apparel industry has surpassed the market size of US$1 trillion since 2013. It now represents nearly 2% of the world’s GDP. On average, 75% of the world’s fashion market is concentrated in Europe, the USA, China, and Japan.
2. The average consumer buys 60% more clothing items every year
On average, a consumer will buy 60% more items of clothing every year. Fashion waste facts also show that consumers are keeping their clothes less and less by the year. Today, people wear clothes for about half as long as they did 15 years ago.
3. Americans spend almost $2,000 on fashion items
The average American household spends nearly $2,000 on apparel, footwear, and related products and services every year.
4. The US produces over 17 million tons of textile waste every year
According to textile waste facts, over 17 million tons of used textile waste are generated annually in the United States. This amount has doubled over the last 20 years.
5. 1 in 2 people throw their clothes in the trash
1 in 2 people throw their unwanted clothes straight in the trash instead of giving away or donating to those who need them. This results in 64% of the total amount of garments produced each year ending up in landfills.
6. Clothes take decades to degrade
Once you throw your clothes in the trash they end up in landfills where they take decades to degrade. In the process, they emit greenhouse gases. Reuse or recycle instead of throwing in the trash.
7. Britons have unworn clothes worth $46.7 billion
According to fashion waste statistics, It is estimated that consumers in the United Kingdom have about $46.7 billion worth of unworn clothes in their closets.
8. If you were to wear your clothes longer you’d reduce clothing waste by up to 10%
The average total life span of a piece of clothing is 5.4 years. If you were to wear your clothes longer by just three months, you would reduce your carbon and water footprints, as well as waste generation, by five to 10%.
9. Consumers recycle clothes less than manufacturers
Consumers throw away more clothes than manufacturers. Only 15% of consumer-used clothing is recycled, compared to more than 75% of pre-use clothing recycled by manufacturers.
10. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions
The fashion industry accounts for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions. The more we recycle our clothes the less the emissions. According to textile waste statistics, recycling 2.62 million tons of clothing per year would be equal to taking 1.3 million cars from U.S. streets.
11. It takes 5,000 gallons of water to produce just one T-shirt and a pair of jeans
The fashion industry is one of the biggest causes of water pollution and wastage. For instance, it takes more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just a T-shirt and a pair of jeans.
12. Textile industry pays peanuts despite being a multi-dollar industry
Factory workers in the Philippines get the lowest wage in the global textile industry. A worker receives about 88 cents per hour.
How to Help Reduce Fashion & Textile Waste
When we think of textile wastes we immediately think of companies that manufacture clothes. However, as consumers, we play a huge role in piling fashion waste. The more we buy, the more waste we create because the manufacturers are just trying to keep up with the demand.
So what can you do to still be fashionable without creating waste? Here are a few solutions:
Go for quality not quantity
When buying clothes, consider the quality. The higher the quality the longer it will last, and hence the fewer clothes you will need to buy. By wearing your clothes longer by only 7 months you could cut waste by half. Before you pay for a fashion item, ask yourself if you will wear it more than 30 times. If not, don’t buy it!
Related article: 25 Sustainable Fashion Brands To Support
Sell or donate
If you currently have clothes that you no longer wear host a garage sale and sell them. Alternatively, you could donate them to a sister, a friend, or even a stranger.
Host a clothing swap or exchange
If you want new clothes but still have lots of unworn ones in your closet, host a swap or exchange event instead of buying new ones. This is an excellent way to get new clothing while responsibly getting rid of the items you don’t want anymore.
Rent instead of buying
For those special occasions that you feel require a new outfit, like a job interview, an important business meeting, a dinner, wedding, etc. consider renting one instead of buying.
Check if your city has textile collection bins where you can dump the clothes you don’t wear anymore. They will then be sort through and those that are in good condition will be donated to charity shops, and the damaged ones will be recycled.
Related article: Sustainable Fashion
Once you’ve grown out of some clothing reuse/upcycle them into something else instead of throwing it in the bin. Need some help? Pinterest is full of creative ideas you can try out.
How much waste does fast fashion produce?
The global fashion industry produces over 92 million tonnes of waste per year. In the U.S. alone, over 17 million tons of used textile waste are generated annually.
How does fashion waste impact the environment?
The biggest impact of the fashion industry on the environment is the emission of greenhouse gases. Clothing in landfills emits methane and pollutes the soil and waters with plastic and chemicals while decomposing.
As you can see from the fashion waste facts, we play a big role as consumers in generating textile waste. But, we have the power to reduce our carbon footprints by being responsible shoppers and encourage all fashion brands to become more eco-friendly.
Remember, when you buy quality, wear longer, buy less, donate or recycle, the fashion industry will follow suit by producing less and better. Together, we can reduce the amount of clothing in landfills!
Sources: Environmental Research & Education Foundation, Center for the Promotion of Imports, Waste and Resources Action Plan, Business2Community, World Wildlife.