As the year continues to fly by, September sets us another challenge that could have a very important impact on the environment if we all take part.
A campaign run by Oxfam for the duration of September is designed to tackle the incredible amount of clothing that is regularly thrown away in the UK and around the world. Clothes can be perfectly fine but still be thrown out and it’s leading to 11 million tonnes of clothing being sent to landfill every week!
That amount of waste being sent to landfill each week is incredibly unsustainable and a major issue that the fashion industry must address. Taking part in a month-long ‘challenge’ won’t solve that problem but it will go some way to addressing the behaviour that makes us look straight towards new clothing rather than good quality second-hand clothing that is already out there.
Not only would second-hand September begin to tackle fashion’s waste problem but plenty of others associated with the fashion industry…
What is Fashion’s Problem?
Fashion per se isn’t the problem – it’s fast fashion. We can buy clothing relatively cheaply, wear it a few times and then throw it out when it’s out of style or is no longer worn. 11 million tonnes of waste is generated each week for something that is often only used a few times and thrown out – it’s incredibly unsustainable.
However, the problem of fast fashion goes well beyond just the waste that is produced by fast fashion. In making clothes as cheaply as possible, fashion labels will look towards developing countries to make the most of cheap labour and loose environmental regulations. In Europe, the USA and other typically developed countries, there are tighter environmental regulations and workers have much greater rights than those in developing countries, which makes the process of producing clothing more expensive for fashion brands.
Getting around the tighter regulations in developed countries can lead to greater exploitation of workers in developing countries. For years there have been scandals over the use of children and young people to produce fashion for an extremely small amount of money. Even for adults, it can be for very little pay and in very poor conditions. Many brands are now recognising their role in helping the development of these countries and becoming more ethically responsible, but there is still plenty that needs be done.
When it comes to the environment, textile manufacturing is the second biggest cause of freshwater pollution, second only to agriculture. As clothes are dyed and coloured, dyes and toxic chemicals involved in the process leak or drain straight into freshwater because it’s the easiest way to get rid of them and there are no regulations in place to prevent it. This causes excessive damage to marine life in that body of water as well as further down streams, rivers or as far as the sea.
Another issue is the materials used to make a lot of fashion. Polyester is one of the most common materials used in clothing – and also one of the worst for the environment. As polyester clothing is washed, microfibres are released. These tiny fibres are often too small to be captured by water filters and water treatment plants, ending up in rivers and the ocean. Research into microplastics has shown that these tiny fibres can be consumed by small plankton and work their way up the food chain, eventually entering our bodies.
How Can You Take Part in Second Hand September?
Taking part is easy. All you have to do is not buy new clothes for the entire month of September. There are still plenty of places to buy good quality clothing second hand – we just need to avoid the high street and online shopping.
If you need a new outfit or are just short on winter clothes as the weather cools down then look towards charity shops or sites like Depop that allow people to sell clothes on. Charity shops can receive some great clothing through donations and then sell them on at a bargain price.
Taking part in Second Hand September also gives you the opportunity to clear out old clothes that you no longer where and either donate them to charity shops or sell them on and even earn yourself a little extra money!
So if you find yourself looking online or browsing shop windows, think of Second Hand September and let’s start reducing our dependence on the unsustainable fashion industry and the demand for new clothing!