Fast fashion contributes to climate change, pollution and unfair working conditions for those who produce the clothes. Despite that, many people collect new clothes at a furious pace, while the old ones are not too rarely dumped in landfills in Africa or Asia. But with the EU's recently voted textile strategy, this is to change - and fashion companies take more responsibility for clothing production.
Fast fashion, also called fast fashion, is a term that used to describe a fast and often unsustainable production cycle in the fashion industry. Clothing and other fashions are produced and marketed using algorithms and computer-generated imagery at record speed to match the fast-moving trends in the fashion industry. With faster deliveries, cheaper prices and new collections every week, an unsustainable trend and system is created where clothes are often thrown away before they are worn out. With poorer quality, the clothes are also difficult to resell, they say The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.
In the recently noticed review by Aftonbladet, it is clear how the clothes that are handed in for recycling are not actually recycled, but instead end up in large landfills on the other side of the globe. The review begins when Aftonbladet hands in around ten garments from H&M in the fashion giant's collection boxes. Equipped with airtags, the garments begin their journey, and it turns out that the clothes together would travel a total of one and a half laps around the world. Two of the garments are ground down to fibers, but most can be traced to well-known dumping sites. One garment ends up in the West African country of Benin and another in the city of Panipat in India, both of which are places with major problems with textile waste, according to Aftonbladet.
- We cannot believe in eternal growth on a planet where the earth's resources are finite. In addition, nothing that we throw away goes to waste. It just ends up somewhere else, becomes something else, turns into someone else's problem, writes Fanny Jönsson, editorial writer at Aftonbladet.
The depressed prices for clothes also mean substandard wages for those who sew the textiles. The current wages for H&M's seamstresses in Bangladesh and India must be increased by at least 70 percent for it to be a fair living wage, explains Maria Sjödin, expert in business and human rights at Fair Action, in an article on their website.
In addition to the unsustainable economic and social conditions that prevail in the countries that produce the clothes, the fast fashion trend also contributes to fueling the global environmental problems. The plastics, chemicals and oils used to make the clothes pollute land and sea, while climate emissions from transport contribute to the greenhouse effect by releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, writes Svenska Dagbladet.
Towards a more circular future
One way to get over the problem with fast fashion could be for the producers to raise the price of clothes, says Joakim Järrebring (S), Member of Parliament and member of the Environment and Agriculture Committee. He sees clothes as resources that need to be valued higher in order for change to take place in society.
- We don't pay for what things cost today, we send the bill to the environment, he said during his participation in the seminar "Stop burning clothes and contribute to our circular future” during Almedal Week 2023.
As the second largest clothing company in the world, after Zara, H&M Group is an example of a world-leading player that could create change in the fashion industry. One of their main focuses on the road to a more sustainable fashion industry is that the clothes the company produces should last longer and be more durable. That's what H&M's regional sustainability manager Marcus Hartmann said below the seminar "Sustainable resource use in a circular future - who will get the resources?" in Almedalen in 2023. To achieve that, their garments therefore need to continue to be produced from materials such as plastic, he said.
However, Hedvig Schylander, climate expert at the Nature Conservation Association, believes that plastic is not part of the solution for sustainability in the textile industry. A better solution would be to make clothes from sustainable materials. Examples of more sustainable materials are organic cotton, hemp and bamboo, according to The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.
The panel in the Almedal seminar "Stop burning clothes and contribute to our circular future" agreed that in order to create a sustainable fashion industry, we must start from among other things two important aspects: design for circularity and producer responsibility. Today, our clothes often contain far too many different types of fibers and most clothes cannot therefore be recycled. Recycling clothes means that the threads are separated and become new things, for example new garments.
- Today's recycling technicians can usually only handle one type of fiber such as cotton, explains Maja Dahlbom during the seminar.
New EU strategy to promote sustainable fashion
On June 1 this year, the EU voted through a new strategy for sustainable and circular textiles. The strategy contains stricter requirements for the textile industry to become more sustainable, both economically, socially and environmentally. Textile producers must, among other things, be responsible for ensuring that the clothes can be recycled, reused and mended, it says of the Riksdag website. One of gthe general rules in the proposal are to hold fashion companies responsible for how they produce their clothes and that it is controlled.
However, criticism of the strategy has not been long in coming. Emily Macintosh, senior policy advisor for textiles at the European Environmental Bureau, EBB, network in Brussels believes that the strategy is not sufficient. It sheds light on the important issues, but more is needed. Right now there is a lack of proper legislation that tackles the problem with today's overproduction in the textile industry, she says in an interview with The outside world. Despite the criticism, EBB still sees the strategy as an important milestone in development. They describe it as "a 'clear signal' that the EU intends to take the issue of legislation around fast fashion seriously."