Fashion + Our Oceans

The Addictive World of Fast Fashion is Fuelling Pollution

Online shopping, there’s no rush like it. The euphoria of hitting add to basket. The anticipation of tracking your ever nearer parcel. The pure joy as the delivery driver drops off your latest buy…

It’s the most convenient way to shop, and the rise of retail giants such as ASOS has made it possible to browse an endless list of brands from the comfort of your own bed. We can now get a retail therapy fix in a matter of minutes: Bad day? ordering clothes will fix it! Bored in lockdown? Online shopping. Can’t sleep? You guessed it, online shopping time! The internet’s vast array of fast fashion sites may be a cheaper way to keep up with trends, but this addictive habit comes at a deadly cost for the oceans.

Plastic packaging and microscopic predators

Not only do many brands use materials that are deadly for water pollution, but they are often packaged in a crazy amount of plastic that can end up being dumped and entering the oceans. Most people are aware that plastic bags are a threat to fish but we forget our online orders are just as bad.

Another, more hidden predator is within the clothes themselves. Much of the clothing we buy from sites such as Boohoo, Nasty Gal and Missguided are made from polyester, which contains microplastics that don’t break down in the ocean. This can lead to marine life ingesting them, posing a threat to the entire marine ecosystem and even our own food system. It appears that the hidden cost of our super cheap outfits may be being paid by the fish.

What has social media got to do with it?

The recent social media trend of fashion hauls have further boosted online fast fashion sales. The craze appeared on Youtube and Tiktok, with influencers unpacking bulk orders from online retailers and giving their opinions. This fuels mass sales of super cheap companies, such as Shein, where tops and dresses are sold from as little as £3. Studies show that the more we use social media, the more likely we are to shop online. This rise of influencer gifting and reviewing is undoubtedly contributing to the popularity of fast fashion.

As much as everyone loves a bargain, the sheer volume and the lack of longevity of fast fashion isn’t worth the damaging effects to the oceans. More and more, people feel they need a new outfit for every event to keep up appearances on social media. A study found that people bought 60% more garments in 2014 than in 2000, yet they only kept the clothes for half as long. And these statistics are probably will continue to rise. This throwaway culture of internet shopping leads to yet more packaging being dumped and even washing synthetic materials releases microplastics into the Earth’s oceans. With sites such as ASOS adding as many as 7,000 new items per week, that’s a lot of waste heading into the sea.

Savvy solutions

Although lots of fashion retailers have pledged to become more sustainable, its clear that super cheap fashion isn’t going anywhere. So here’s how we can all play our part, to resist temptation and help save the fish:

If you still want to feed your online shopping addiction, second hand is the sustainable, affordable answer. Apps like Vinted and Depop are fuelling a wave of internet thrift shopping. This means we can still enjoy scrolling through pages of clothes with a clear conscience. Who doesn’t love a second hand bargain?

There are also sustainable brands, who are committed to supplying fashion without the side effects of microplastics. For example, Patagonia use only recycled polyester and nylon and they also remove synthetic microfibres from fabrics. Sustainable brand, Lucy and Yak also make conscious fashion- including super stylish fluffy coats made from recycled bottles. For bargain hunters who don’t love to splash the cash, more affordable brands like H&M have conscious collections made from organic and recycled materials.

Another idea is swapping with friends. It is so easy, you don’t even have to pay for shipping! The dress you wore once that hasn’t seen daylight since 2018 might be a gem for someone else. Instead of buying a whole new outfit, get creative and recycle each other’s fashion.

Re-wear and buy less

Of course, its not a sin to treat yourself sometimes, but don’t just buy because of boredom. Stop and think, is this really necessary? We’re all guilty of buying things we don’t really need. Before scrolling, stop and remember all the tops that are currently hiding in the bottom of your wardrobe! So, next time you’re about to click ‘add to basket’ on your fave fast fashion site, think about our oceans and help stop the spread of microplastics.

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