Forever 21’s fast fashion may be ending up in landfills

We're calling on Forever 21 to adopt sustainable practices and publicly commit to not trashing or burning unsold clothing.

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Fast fashion has a growing waste problem. Clothing companies like Forever 21 are constantly churning out the latest trends at incredibly cheap prices — but what happens to last season’s looks? 

When a new clothing shipment arrives, fashion retailers take the “old” clothes off the shelf and toss them in the trash — brand new clothes that have never even been worn. The result is mountains of textile waste being sent to landfills and incinerators.    

Globally, only 20% of all textiles are recycled or repurposed, sending the other 92 million tons of clothing to landfills each year — a major reason why clothing and textile waste is the fastest-growing waste stream in the United States. 

Forever 21 is one of the largest fast fashion retailers in the U.S., and it churns through millions of articles of clothing every season. Whatever doesn’t get sold is likely headed to the landfill. 

Forever 21: Waste is out of fashion

Forever 21: Waste is out of fashion

Sign our petition calling on Forever 21 CEO Winnie Park to commit the company to not trashing or burning new, unsold clothing.

Sign the petition

The fast fashion business model is built on waste

Fast fashion companies make and sell clothes so cheaply that their business model relies on constantly attracting customers with ever-changing trends and selling them far more clothing than they need.

They’re using precious resources to produce millions more tons of clothing than they can actually sell, and they’re shipping them all over the world to stores with no more room on their racks. Each season, fast fashion retailers like Forever 21 are overproducing clothes by 30-40% — clothing they know won’t be sold.

In addition to all the waste, this business model pollutes our air and water with its constant manufacturing and shipping, and it contributes to climate change. Clothing in landfills releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, and the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions

This endless cycle of overproduction and waste has to stop, and Forever 21 can lead the way by publicly committing to never trashing or burning new, unsold clothing. 

Customers want sustainable alternatives to fast fashion 

In France, a new law bans companies from destroying unsold products, including clothing, setting a precedent for how other countries can address waste. But until major changes like that take effect in the U.S., we consumers have a lot of power. 

Every time we shop at fast fashion stores, we reinforce that clothing overproduction and microtrends work. But if we adapt our shopping habits to support sustainable fashion, we can show the fashion industry that their environmental damage is not something we are willing to overlook. 

Many consumers are already exploring less wasteful ways to be fashionable by turning to thrift stores for second-hand clothes, repairing their existing clothes, and even repurposing old clothes into new household items.

But to get at the root of the problem, we need fast fashion companies to act. Forever 21 can be an industry leader by publicly committing to never burning or trashing overstock. If a major company like Forever 21 does this, it would create a ripple effect across the industry that changes the world for good. 

Add your name to our petition.


Janet Domenitz

Executive Director, MASSPIRG Education Fund

Janet has been the executive director of MASSPIRG since 1990 and directs programs on consumer protection, solid waste reduction and recycling, health and safety, public transportation, and voter participation. Janet has co-founded or led coalitions, including Earth Day Greater Boston, Campaign to Update the Bottle Bill and the Election Modernization Coalition. On behalf of MASSPIRG, Janet was one of the founding members of Transportation for Massachusetts (T4MA), a statewide coalition of organizations advocating investment in mass transit to curb climate change, improve public health and address equity. Janet serves as vice president for the Consumer Federation of America and serves on the Common Cause Massachusetts executive committee, Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow board of directors, and Department of Environmental Protection Solid Waste Advisory Committee. For her work, Janet has received Common Cause’s John Gardner Award and Salem State University’s Friend of the Earth Award. Janet lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and two sons, and every Wednesday morning she slow-runs the steps at Harvard Stadium with the November Project.

Celeste Meiffren-Swango

State Director, Environment Oregon

As director of Environment Oregon, Celeste develops and runs campaigns to win real results for Oregon's environment. She has worked on issues ranging from preventing plastic pollution, stopping global warming, defending clean water, and protecting our beautiful places. Celeste's organizing has helped to reduce kids' exposure to lead in drinking water at childcare facilities in Oregon, encourage transportation electrification, ban single-use plastic grocery bags, defend our bedrock environmental laws and more. She is also the author of the children's book, Myrtle the Turtle, empowering kids to prevent plastic pollution. Celeste lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband and two daughters, where they frequently enjoy the bounty of Oregon's natural beauty.