With fast fashion, the low cost and high replaceability of our clothes may lead us to take our clothes for granted. Coupled with the low quality that is prevalent now, this results in clothes being damaged at a faster rate. (If the cost is high, we are more likely to treasure the garment and take proper care of it— e.g. luxury goods.) As compared to clothing decades ago which were often used over long periods of time and kept in good condition. Tears in garments were patched and clothing that could no longer be used was repurposed. The life cycle of the garments were extended considerably.
Washing, Drying, ironing
Apart from wear, the washing of the garments also shortens its lifecycle. The use of machine washing also leads to faster damage and the increased use of energy, water and chemical detergents. A single polyester garment sheds an estimated 1,9000 individual microplastic fibres (plastic fragments 5mm or smaller). Hazardous toxins are also washed from new clothes and into the water. The wastewater from clothes can carry the toxic chemicals from the treatment process of the garments as well as micro fibres and chemicals from the detergents into our waterways. Some detergents contain phosphates, that contribute to eutrophication if left untreated, and alkylphenol ethoxylates (an endocrine disruptor) which is bioaccumulative and affect aquatic life. We also find ourselves tumble drying our garments instead of air-drying them, which damages clothing faster and wastes energy. Half of the total carbon emissions occur when we wash, tumble-dry and iron our clothes. Levi’s found that 58% of energy use and 45% of water use (of the whole lifecycle) occured during the consumer use phase of a pair of jeans. If you think that the responsibility to change lies solely in the hands of the manufacturers, think again!