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Fashion Revolution Week 2024 | Social Justice Ireland

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The real cost of clothing

There is a disconnect between the price of the clothes we buy and the true social and environmental cost of production. The volume of clothes produced and bought is growing at an unsustainable rate and relies on a “culture of disposability”. In 2015, around 150 billion items of clothing were produced and this number continues to grow. We buy 60 per cent more clothing now than we did 15 years ago and we only keep these clothes for half as long as we used to. By keeping and wearing clothes for longer, by swapping and donating, we can help to lower the impact. Research from WRAP has found that extending the life of a garment by 9 months would reduce its carbon, water and waste footprints by 20-30% each.

Unsustainable materials

Added to the sheer volume of clothing produced are the unsustainable materials used. “Our clothes are made from materials and processes that require the extraction of natural, non-renewable resources and produce considerable negative environmental impacts. Each of the common materials we wear carries its own set of environmental issues, from the oil extraction required to create polyester, acrylic and nylon to the deforestation for viscose or heavy pesticide use in farming cotton”.

About 60 per cent of global fibre production is polyester, a man made plastic fibre which is made using crude oil. Every time we wash these items, individual microplastic fibres are shed and enter into the waterways. Every year, Irish people dump 225,000 tonnes of clothing – a huge waste of water and energy considering that it would take 13 years to drink the amount of water needed to make one t-shirt and one pair of jeans.

Environmental Protection Agency New Report –  Textiles: National Attitudes and Behaviours Survey 2021

The survey aims to provide insights into Irish consumers’ attitudes and behaviours regarding textile waste and the circular economy. The report’s main findings indicate that Irish consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of textile waste, with 94% of respondents indicating that they believe it is important to reduce textile waste. The survey also found that respondents are willing to take action to reduce textile waste, with 76% indicating they would reuse or donate textiles.

However, the survey also highlighted areas for improvement, such as the need for increased awareness and education around textile waste and the circular economy. For example, only 38% of respondents were aware of the concept of the circular economy, and just 18% were familiar with the term “circular fashion.”

Decent Pay for workers

Fashion Revolution Week calls attention to the pay disparities between the fashion brands, who “have made billions, while the majority of workers in their supply chains remain trapped in poverty”. They are calling for new laws that require businesses to conduct due diligence on living wages. This will transform the lives and livelihoods of the people that make our clothes, and help redistribute money and power in the global fashion industry.

Fashion Revolution Week is a “global movement of people who make the fashion industry work, the people who wear clothes and the people who make them, the designers, academics, writers, business leaders, policymakers, brands, retailers, marketers, producers, makers, workers and fashion lovers”. 

LEARN MORE AT www.fashionrevolution.org/

Check out our podcast episode with Carrie-Ann Moran, Director of Fashion Revolution Ireland as she chats about the global fashion and textile industry, the impact it has on emissions and how we all, individual and industry can move from the linear model to a circular model available HERE. Carrie-Ann Moran also spoke at our 2023 Annual Social Policy Conference on the theme of A Just Transition. You can watch her at 22.30 minutes in on the Session One video HERE

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