MIAMI BEACH, Florida. – It’s a Saturday in Miami Beach, and volunteers are picking up trash that has washed up on the shores of the Julia Tuttle Causeway.
These are not the typical plastic bottles or bags.
Those pants, shirts, pillows and bras are fashion pollution – nearly 80 pounds.
“It’s slowly creeping up our shores,” says Colleen Coughlin, eco-fashion director for Debris Free Oceans.
In 2013, she quit her job at Victoria’s Secret to start The Full Edit, a consulting service that helps people recycle their fashion scraps.
“Nobody really thinks about the end product, what happens to where your clothes go,” Coughlin says. “On average, an American throws away up to 79 pounds of textiles per year.”
The United Nations Sustainable Fashion Alliance estimates that textiles account for 9% of all microplastics polluting our planet. Products containing polyester, acrylic and nylon are the biggest offenders.
“If you have polyester in a shirt with cotton, that polyester component makes it cheaper, can make it cheaper,” says alliance president Simone Cipriani. “But that makes recycling difficult. This makes it difficult every time you wash. Microparticles can go into the ocean.
The statistics are sobering. Sales in the global apparel market are expected to grow from $1.5 trillion in 2020 to $2.5 trillion in 2025. This dramatic surge in sales is being met by a dramatic drop in the number of people again wearing the clothes they they already have, and fast fashion is fueling the fire. .
“Fast fashion is any brand that produces or sells clothes at a relatively low cost, it can range from $5 to $50, but in a turnover of styles every two weeks,” says Hassan Pierre, CEO and Founder from Maison De Mode, originally from Miami. , an online fashion store that only represents sustainable brands. “I think if you put something out there you really have to be aware of how its life is going to end or how you might put it back into your system.”
Alepel is part of the Maison De Mode brands. It is based in South Florida and sustainability is in its DNA.
“We actually produce very little waste,” says Adriana Epelboim-Levy, founder and creative director of Alepel. “Again, everything is made to order. We therefore have no excess inventory. … Everything we make is considered a lifetime item.
That’s significant considering a 2015 study that found the average lifespan of a fashion item was just seven wears.
Another study found that less than 10% of clothing donations are actually kept by charities and sold domestically.
The rest is either incinerated or shipped around the world to countries like Haiti, Chile, Ghana and Kenya.
Caitriona Rogerson saw the impact firsthand while filming the documentary Textile Mountain. Piling of clothes leads to clogged waterways and devastating floods.
“What we discovered along the banks of the river in Kibera, one of the largest informal settlements in Kenya, was that up to 80% of the litter along the banks was actually made up of textiles,” says -she.
“There are not many regulations regarding the quality of clothing that ends up in these bales. Up to 50% of these balls can often be useless and discarded.
And the journey for all those bullets begins before you buy.
“When giving stuff away, I want you to think about how many times you’ve worn it,” Coughlin says. “If you haven’t worn it more than five times, you shouldn’t have bought it.”
Cipriani says, “To be a responsible consumer, you need to ask yourself whenever you can: where is this product coming from? What is the real production study of this product? What are the shows? What are the working conditions? How have you dealt with climate change?
“These are important questions, part of being an active citizen of today’s world.”
Sustainable fashion tips
There’s still a long way to go to help make sustainable fashion more accessible to everyone – that includes cost and size inclusiveness – but there are options. Here are some tips for conscious consumption:
Buy a second hand : Consignment stores and thrift stores are a great way to access high-quality pieces at low prices. By buying used, you extend the life cycle of an item and keep it from going into a landfill. Reseller websites may also provide an online option.
Recycling : Give new life to your existing objects through the practice of upcycling. By creatively reusing your clothes, you can create totally unique pieces. There are many tutorials, all you have to do is google it.
To exchange: Get together with friends for a style swap. Plan a day where a few friends each bring fashion items, then trade those items. There are also local groups that host public swaps, such as StyleSwapMIA.
To rent: There are now a number of options for clothing rental services. For many, you pay a monthly fee for a specific number of clothing items. Each service varies in convenience and style, but it’s a great option for those who don’t find themselves wearing their clothes again. Many of these services also give you the option of purchasing a rental item if you want to keep it forever.
Buy less, better quality: When thinking about the cost of an item, think about the number of times you will wear it. If the list price of a pair of jeans is $100, but you wear them 50 times, the effective cost per garment is $2. Conversely, a pair of $10 jeans that you wear only once has a cost per wear of $10. Higher quality items have a longer lifespan, which can be extended through repair and maintenance.
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