The High Social and Environmental Costs of Fast Fashion

source betway

Numerous factors are causing devastating changes in our environment. Climate change is one of the most discussed environmental problems, with increasing global warming causing unpredictability.

Many industries play huge roles in today’s unprecedented environmental damage. The fashion industry is second to only the oil industry in world pollution. Clothing trends are changing at an unbelievable pace, leaving damning effects on the environment.

Each year, over 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions are produced during textile production, according to a recent study done by Betway. The devastating environmental effects of fast fashion include:

Greenhouse Gases Emissions

Fast fashion produces high levels of carbon, through both the production and transportation of clothing. The greenhouse gases emitted are equivalent to that of the entire global aviation industry. The production of synthetic polymers is another part of the fashion industry that contributes hugely to greenhouse gas emissions. The best thing about polymers is that they are very durable but synthetic production is not safe for the environment.

Water Resources Depletion and Pollution

The production of a single cotton t-shirt requires almost 3000 liters of water. This popular clothing material is grown in regions where water is scarce yet requires a lot of water to grow. This is an ideal example of the large quantity of water consumed in the fashion industry. Similarly, almost 200 tons of water are required to manufacture and dye textiles.

Also, untreated wastewater from factories is dumped into water bodies, especially in developing countries, causing serious water pollution.

Betway Infographic
source: Betway Infographic

Waste Accumulating in Landfills

The quantity of clothes that end up in a landfill annually is alarming. For example, at least 84% of clothes in the US end up in a landfill per year, particularly in pursuit of new trends. Some of these clothes, polyester, can take up to two centuries to decompose. Nylon needs 30 to 40 years. Microplastics are released into the soil as the materials decompose, which can pollute nearby water bodies.

 Non-Renewable Resources Are Used

More non-renewable resources, e.g. polymers, are used in the fast fashion industry. For example, the fossil fuels used are not sustainable and the mining process causes air pollution and ultimately climate change.

What’s the Way Forward?

This devastating trajectory cannot be allowed to continue. All parties have to show commitment to sustainable living. Most discussions focus on brands embracing green practices but the attitude of users is a fundamental factor. As more users favor environmentally sustainable products, businesses will have to make necessary adjustments otherwise they will be left behind. Governments, especially in developing countries, also have to ensure businesses comply with standard regulations such as proper treatment of wastewater before dumping it into water bodies.


The social and environmental costs of fast fashion are enormous. Discussions about these impacts have created a high level of awareness about environmental harmful processes and procedures, spurring users to pay better attention to how their fashion choices affect the environment. Many brands are going green but there’s so much more to do.


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