What the Fashion!? Five Ways to Reduce the Fashion Industry’s Overstock Waste

What do you think of when you read the word landfill? Did unused, unsold, or brand new clothes come to mind?

Pile of discarded clothing

By Savannah Hirahara, CALPIRG Intern Spring 2021


What do you think of when you read the word landfill? Did unused, unsold, or brand new clothes come to mind?

The fashion industry is racing to become the most wasteful industry in the world. This industry produces far more clothing than we will ever need — more than 150 billion clothing products each year — which is equal to 20 new clothing items per person in the world. Fast fashion corporations are increasing the production of textiles even further, which ultimately contribute to  our already out-of-control California waste crisis.

Brands produce more clothing than what they can sell, and deal with the excess overstock in shocking ways. The fashion industry chooses to burn or throw away their unsold products, never even touched. Why do this? Well, it’s cheap and convenient but this practice is wasteful, environmentally damaging, and simply absurd. To make one cotton t-shirt it takes 2,700 liters of water; that’s enough to drink for 900 days!

Our society has become accustomed to how easily disposable our clothes are because of how much we purchase. Our desire for a better future and environment needs to be more than our want for the latest trends. We can’t continue to turn the cheek when an unacceptable practice is being done. Here are five ways that the fashion industry, local governments, and the public can help:


1.     Stop Overproducing

The fashion industry should stop producing more clothes than it can sell. If big brands stopped overproducing then there would be less dumping, incinerating, and revenue loss towards their company. The fashion industry needs to slow down their production of new collections and refocus on making quality and sustainable products that are made to last rather than cheap disposable products. Businesses can avoid this by analyzing trend predictions and preventing textile waste during the production process.


2.     Donate Overstock Clothing

Homelessness in California is rapidly increasing, leaving unhoused people unable to afford basic necessities like clothing. The fashion industry is more than capable of donating the overstock clothing that they dump or burn to those who need it — in fact, several luxury brands including Burberry have committed to doing just that. Items can be donated to nonprofit organizations and shelters that specifically work with the unhoused or low-income individuals.


3.     Commit to Buying Less

When you commit to buying less, you are consciously making the decision not to support fast fashion. Buying less means purchasing timeless pieces that will never go out of fashion. Adding timeless pieces such as white sneakers, little black dress, or a black blazer will save you money in the future but also save our environment. Commit to wearing what’s already in your closet, buying less of what’s currently on trend which will soon go out of style, and support brands that already have an initiative to be sustainable.


4.     Sell Your Old Clothes & Shop Secondhand

There will always be a time when it comes to part with a beloved clothing item, but make sure you do it wisely. Second-hand stores like Goodwill are a sound option, but these retailers often receive more donations than they can manage. The Goodwill stores in California spend up to $7 million annually on dumping costs. With that in mind, try selling your items on platforms such as Poshmark, Mercari, or Offerup, or bring your old clothes, shoes, and linens directly to a textile recycler.


5.     Contact Your Local and State Governments

If the fashion industry won’t clean up its act, we need our policy makers to take action. We need to email, call, and write to our state and local legislators to make sure that textile waste does not continue to increase. By contacting our governor here, California can help put a stop to this carelessness.


What are some other ways that you plan on reducing the waste within the fashion industry? Tweet us @CALPIRG!

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