Fast fashion stats, pros and cons: Is it worth the cost?
Fast fashion has become a global phenomenon, but at what cost? This blog post covers the facts and stats of the industry, including the pros and cons and the brands to avoid. Learn about the environmental and ethical impact of fast fashion in various countries
What is fast fashion?
Fast fashion is a term used to describe the mass production of low-cost clothing, which quickly adapts to the latest fashion trends. The fast fashion industry has been a driving force in the growth of the global fashion industry, with many retailers offering new collections at least once a week. While fast fashion has made fashion more affordable and accessible to consumers, it has also led to significant negative environmental and social impacts.
Environmental impacts of fast fashion
The fast fashion industry has significant environmental impacts that have been well documented. One of the main issues is the overconsumption of clothing, which leads to large quantities of textile waste. The production of clothing also has a large carbon footprint, and the use of toxic chemicals in textile production and dyeing can have significant impacts on water, soil quality and animal wellbeing. Here is a list of some of the environmental impacts of fast fashion:
The fast fashion industry relies on quick, cheap production of clothing items, which means that clothing items are often of poor quality and fall apart quickly. This leads to large amounts of textile waste.
The production and transportation of clothing items have a large carbon footprint, with textile production accounting for 2.1 billion tons of CO2 emissions annually .
The use of toxic chemicals in textile production and dyeing can have significant impacts on water quality. In fact, the textile dyeing process is the second largest polluter of water globally, with up to 20% of global industrial water pollution resulting from textile dyeing and treatment . This has a notably significant impact on ecosystems.
Fresh water use
The textile industry is a significant user of water, with an estimated 93 billion cubic meters of water used annually for textile production .
Social impact of fast fashion
The fast fashion industry also significant social impacts, particularly in the countries where clothing is produced. Workers in these countries are often paid low wages and work in unsafe and unhealthy working conditions. The fast fashion industry has also been accused of exploiting child labour and promoting poor labour practices. Here are some of the social impacts of fast fashion:
Unfair working conditions
Global fast fashion stats
While the exact fast fashion stats and figures may vary between organizations, they all point to the same conclusion: the fashion industry has a significant impact on the environment and the global economy. In order to address these challenges, significant changes are needed in the industry’s practices and consumer behavior. Have a look a below for fast fashion stats from leading organisations like the UN, McKinsey, Ellen MacArthur and Textile Exchange.
- By 2050, the fashion industry is projected to use up to 25% of the world’s carbon budget .
- The fashion industry is a significant contributor to global carbon emissions. The World Economic Forum reports that the industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions .
- Fashion Revolution reports that the fashion industry produces 2.1 billion tons of CO2 equivalent annually , which is more than international flights and maritime shipping combined .
- An estimated 93 billion cubic meters of water is used annually for textile production .
- The United Nations estimates that the fashion industry is responsible for 20% of global wastewater .
- The Ellen MacArthur Foundation reports that the fashion industry uses 79 billion cubic meters of water annually, which is equivalent to the needs of 32 million Americans for a year .
- Water Footprint Network reports that it takes 2,500 liters of water to make one t-shirt , which is equivalent to the amount of water one person drinks in 3 years.
- Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water globally, after agriculture (World Wildlife Fund, 2017).
- The World Bank estimates that textile dyeing and treatment accounts for 17-20% of global industrial water pollution . This is expected to increase to 50% by 2030 .
- The United Nations reports that the fashion industry is responsible for 35% of microplastic pollution in the ocean .
- The Ellen MacArthur Foundation reports that the fashion industry is responsible for 92 million tons of textile waste annually, andthat the equivalent of one garbage truck full of textiles is landfilled or burned every second .
- Only 1% of textile waste is currently being recycled into new clothing .
- Fashion Values estimates that the fashion industry is responsible for the loss of 150 million trees annually .
- The International Cotton Advisory Committee reports that cotton production accounts for 4.71% of all pesticides sales globally and within this, it accounts for 10.24% of all insecticide sales .
- The fashion industry is a major contributor to the global economy. McKinsey estimates that the industry generates $2.5 trillion annually and employs over 75 million people worldwide .
- However, the industry’s economic impact is not always positive, as it often relies on low-cost labour and drives down prices, leading to economic and social instability in developing countries.
- The fashion industry is notorious for its poor labour conditions, particularly in developing countries where many of the garments are produced.
- According to Clean Clothes Campaign, 90% of workers in the global fashion industry do not earn a living wage .
Fast fashion stats by country
In the top 10 most fast fashion consuming countries.
1 | USA
- Around 11.3 million tons of textile waste, which accounts for 85% of all textiles, are disposed of in landfills annually. This is approximately 81.5 pounds (37 kilograms) per person per year and approximately 2,150 pieces per second throughout the country .
- The majority of products returned by consumers to retailers end up in landfills since it’s more expensive for the company to recycle them. According to Optoro, a company that specializes in reverse logistics, online returns in the US in 2020 resulted in an estimated 16 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, which is comparable to the emissions produced by 3.5 million cars driving for a year .
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 5% of all landfill space is occupied by textile waste .
- On average, Americans dispose of 70 pounds of textile every year .
2 | China
- The value of China’s textile exports in 2021 was approximately $146bn, making it the largest textile and apparel manufacturer in the world .
- More than 5bn t-shirts are manufactured in China every year .
- According to state news agency Xinhua, the Chinese throw away approximately 26 million tonnes of textiles every year .
- Less than 1% of all garments are recycled or reused. This is largely because there is a cultural stigma against second hand clothing, with these being considered unhygienic and even unlucky. Non-charitable sales of used clothing are even banned for health and safety reasons .
- The value of the fast fashion industry in China is expected to grow up to over $17bn in 2025 .
3 | Japan
- Japan’s fast industry annual turnover is $96bn . That is an average expenditure of $763 per person.
- Japanese consumers are the second-largest buyers of fashion in the world, purchasing 9.5 billion garments per year .
- A survey by the Ministry of Environment found that 819,000 tonnes of textiles were supplied to the market in 2020. In the same year, 787,000 tonnes were disposed of. From these, 19% were reused, 15% were recycled and the rest thrown away into landfill . On average, the waste per capita was of 6.3kg of textile.
- The annual carbon emissions add up to 95 million tonnes, which is 4.5% of the global market share. From Japan’s fashion industry total emissions, 5.3% are associated with the burning of textile waste .
- 98% of textiles are imported from overseas .
4 | UK
- The average projected lifetime of a garment is 3.3 years .
- British citizens shop more clothing than any other Europeans, with an annual average of 26.7kg per person .
- Households produce circa 300,000 tonnes of textile waste every year, and only 1% is recycled .
- WRAP estimates the value of UK’s textile waste to be £140mn .
- Over two tonnes of clothing are purchased every minute, resulting in nearly 50 tonnes of carbon emissions, which is equivalent to driving a car for 162,000 miles .
- In other words, the average carbon emissions associated with fashion in the UK is 390kg per person yearly.
5 | Germany
- In 2020, Germans spent an average of €634 on clothing, which was €68 less than the previous year (Statista, 2021).
- The German fashion industry is responsible for 2.7% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions (Modeklima, 2021).
- In 2018, Germans generated an estimated 1.26 million tons of textile waste, with only 14% being collected for recycling (Bundesumweltamt, 2020).
6 | France
- French people purchase 60% more clothes than they did 15 years ago, and on average throw away 12 kilograms of clothes per year (France 24, 2019).
- The fashion industry accounts for 10% of France’s carbon emissions (BFMTV, 2019).
- In 2019, the French generated an estimated 715,000 tons of textile waste, with only 29% being collected for recycling (ADEME, 2020).
7 | Italy
- In 2019, Italians spent an average of €1,430 on fashion and accessories, making them the top spenders in Europe (Il Sole 24 Ore, 2020).
- The fashion industry is responsible for 4% of Italy’s greenhouse gas emissions (Sustainable Fashion Matterz, 2021).
- In 2019, Italy generated an estimated 235,000 tons of textile waste, with only 29% being collected for recycling (Fondazione Ricerca Sistema Energetico, 2021).
8 | Spain
- In 2020, Spaniards spent an average of €619 on clothing, which was €60 less than the previous year (Statista, 2021).
- The Spanish fashion industry is responsible for 2.2% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions (El Pais, 2019).
- In 2019, the Spanish generated an estimated 450,000 tons of textile waste, with only 10% being collected for recycling (El Confidencial, 2020).
- The Spanish fashion industry employs over 125,000 people and generates more than €15 billion in revenue (Modaes, 2021).
- Spanish consumers are becoming more aware of the environmental impact of fashion, with a growing interest in sustainable and secondhand clothing (Modaes, 2021).
9 | Australia
- Australians are the world’s second-largest consumers of textiles, with an average of 27 kg of clothing and textiles being disposed of per person per year (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2018).
- Fast fashion is responsible for 10% of Australia’s carbon emissions, and the fashion industry is the second-largest water polluter in the world (Sustain Your Style, 2021).
- Only 15% of textiles in Australia are being recycled or donated, with the rest ending up in landfill (ABC News, 2018).
10 | Canada
- Canadians spent an average of $1,371 on clothing and accessories in 2018, with a large portion of this spending going towards fast fashion (Statistics Canada, 2019).
- Fast fashion makes up approximately 70% of the clothing sold in Canada (Environmental Defence, 2019).
- In 2019, the Canadian textile industry generated over 35 million tons of textile waste, with only 15% being recycled (National Zero Waste Council, 2019).
- Canadian consumers are becoming more conscious of the environmental and social impacts of fashion, with a growing interest in sustainable and ethical clothing options .
- The Canadian government has launched various initiatives to promote sustainable fashion and reduce textile waste, including investing in textile recycling infrastructure and supporting the development of eco-friendly materials (Government of Canada, 2021).
fast fashion consumers thoughts
A recent survey by Global Data outlines some interesting consumer attitudes and feelings towards fast fashion .
Fast fashion and its impact
- 74% of fast fashion shoppers believe that their personal purchasing behaviour has a significant impact on the planet.
- 50% of fast fashion shoppers believe fast fashion has a negative impact on the environment.
Fast fashion and its value
- 72% of consumers cite the affordability of fast fashion as a reason for buying it.
- 53% of fast fashion consumers prefer it because it’s convenient.
Fast fashion pressures and habits
- 62% of fast fashion consumers believe retailers encourage them to shop items they don’t need.
- 20% of fast fashion shoppers feel socially pressures by social media to shop the latest styles.
- 59% of shoppers see consuming fast fashion as a hard to stop habit.
- 48% of fast fashion consumers try to avoid purchasing fast fashion.
- 43% of consumers feel remorse for wearing or purchasing fast fashion.
Sustainable Development Goals and fast fashion
The fast fashion industry has a significant impact on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with many of the goals related to environmental and social sustainability. Here are some of the SDGs that are most relevant to the fast fashion industry:
SDG 12 | Responsible consumption and production
The fast fashion industry is a significant contributor to unsustainable consumption and production patterns. Goal 12 aims to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns by promoting resource and energy efficiency, sustainable infrastructure, and access to basic services.
SDG 8 | Decent work and economic growth
Fast fashion has led to significant economic growth in countries where clothing is produced, but has also been criticized for poor labour practices. Goal 8 aims to promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.
SDG 14 | Life below water
The fast fashion industry is responsible for water pollution, with significant quantities of hazardous chemicals used during the manufacturing process. Goal 14 aims to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.
Fast fashion pros and cons
While the fast fashion industry has significant environmental and social impacts, it has also brought about a limited number of benefits. Here are some of the pros and cons of fast fashion:
- Affordability: Fast fashion has made fashion more affordable and accessible to consumers, particularly those on a tight budget.
- Variety: The fast fashion industry offers a wide range of clothing options, with new collections released frequently.
- Economic growth: The fast fashion industry has led to significant economic growth in countries where clothing is produced, particularly in developing countries.
- Environmental impact: The fast fashion industry has significant environmental impacts, including large quantities of textile waste, carbon emissions, and water pollution.
- Social impact: The fast fashion industry has been criticized for poor labour practices, including low wages, poor working conditions, and child labour.
- Quality: Fast fashion clothing items are often of poor quality, which means they need to be replaced frequently, contributing to the cycle of overconsumption and waste.
Reduce the environmental impact of your wardrobe
Fast fashion has significant environmental and social impacts, including large quantities of textile waste, carbon emissions, and poor labour practices.
To support a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry, it’s important to make informed choices about the clothing we buy and choose brands that are committed to sustainability and fair labour practices. By working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we can help to ensure a more sustainable future for all.
The Konsciouskind alternative, everything but fast fashion
Advocating for sustainability
We are a sustainable clothing brand based in the UK, striving to offer you quality affordable sustainable fashion which go beyond their original function. Our clothes are designed to help you promote sustainability daily. All you have to do is wear your Konsciouskind clothes.
No to fast fashion
We are a slow fashion sustainable brand. We believe that it’s time to slow down the fast-paced, wasteful fashion industry and help you, customers, make better decisions about what you wear.
Our model is the complete opposite of high-street fast fashion brands: we only make our sustainable clothing on order. Our production processes help us drastically reduce waste and material usage to achieve virtually zero clothing waste.
As a result, if you choose Konsciouskind, the environmental impact of your new clothes is reduced remarkably.
Only sustainable materials
As a sustainable fashion brand, we never contemplated alternatives: our sustainable fashion is cruelty-free and has always been made with recycled materials and sustainable fabrics.
These range from certified organic cotton cultivated in farms with fair working conditions to recycled polyester (rPET) made from plastic bottles.
Say no to polluting chemicals and soil over-exploitation. Choose our Konsciouskind sustainable materials, reduce your environmental impact and drive change.
Sustainability in our supply chain
We’re not interested in empty claims and we know neither are you. We want to make sure our sustainable fashion is indeed sustainable.
Sustainability is a top priority for us at Konsciouskind and we make every effort to ensure it. We partner with suppliers who use sustainable materials and a have a responsible supply chain. When you buy from us, you can rest assured that the makers of the garment work under fair working conditions and are paid a living wage.
You can look at other sustainable brands, and you will see: sustainable fashion doesn’t get any better than Konsciouskind. Want to learn more? Read about our sustainable supply chain and the quality of our clothes.
Driving change with fashion
Fashion experts from Vogue agree: “As a visual medium, fashion is on the front line of communication. In the blink of an eye, an outfit can say what may be impossible or too impolitic to put into words.“. In a more fundamental level, a piece of clothing can easily spark the beginning of a conversation to help you advocate for sustainability and to influence others.
Advocate through sustainable fashion
Powerful gender equality sustainable jumper #5 | Embroidered
Cool Pink Sustainable Jumper #1 | Foster the Forests
Extra reading and references
General information and fast fashion stats
Fast fashion stats | References
-  Fashion Revolution
-  UNEP, 2019
-  United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, 2022
-  Clean Clothes Campaign
-  Human Rights Watch, 2017
-  Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017
-  World Economic Forum, 2020
-  House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, 2019
-  Water Footprint Network
-  Water Talks
-  World Bank, 2020
-  Fashion United, 2020
-  UNEP, 2021
-  Fashion Values
-  ICAC, 2019
-  McKinsey, 2019
-  Clean Clothes Campaign
-  Earth.Org, 2022
-  Council for Textile Recycling
-  Global Data, 2022
-  Sabanoglu, 2022
-  Supply Chain Brain, 2020
-  Fashion United
-  Ministry of Environment Japan, 2021
-  WRAP, 2017
-  Environmental Audit Committee, 2019
-  WRAP
-  Oxfam, 2019
Workers in countries where clothing is produced are often paid low wages and work in unsafe and unhealthy conditions. The fast fashion industry has been criticised for failing to provide adequate protections for workers, particularly in countries with weaker labour protections .