Every Picture Tells a Story: Fast Fashion

By Chuck Dinerstein, MD, MBA — Jun 13, 2023
Fast fashion refers to quickly designed clothing, easily produced from low-cost (cheap) materials and offered in trendy stores. Zara might be considered a fast fashion’s model. But what becomes of those no longer desirable clothes when the trend changes and the fashion shifts?
Image by LUM3N from Pixabay

If, as the organizational guru Marie Kondo says, the object (in this case, clothing) no longer gives us joy, then it needs to move on. Absent a younger sibling, most clothing today gets tossed – into the trash or, if you are sustainably minded, into a bin to be repurposed by another. [1]

  • 85% of clothing goes to landfills – 13 million tons, 70 pounds/per person annually.
  • 1% is recycled into new clothing. For comparison, we recycle 9% of our plastic and 70% of our cardboard.
  • Roughly 90% of the clothing we give “to charity” goes to bundlers who repackage the goods for export.

Obroni Wawu Or “Dead White Man’s Clothes”

Obroni Wawu is Twi, a language spoken in Ghana, the world’s largest importer of used clothing. Fast fashion has led to increasing volumes of clothing at increasingly lower quality. It is estimated that 40% or more of the imported used clothing is waste.

We are moving our first-world trash to a lower middle-income country that, like us, has no infrastructure to handle the waste and, unlike us, has no money to fix the problem. 

Here are just a few more facts about fashion:

  • Clothing manufacturer uses 10% of all industrial water, resulting in 20% of wastewater.
  • The higher cost to create fabrics lies with the natural fibers of “organic” cotton and silk.
  • Synthetic fabrics are not without their impact; they are petroleum derivatives, and washing those clothing contributes to 35% of the ocean’s microplastics.

  • According to the UN, “The average consumer buys 60 percent more pieces of clothing than 15 years ago. Each item is only kept for half as long.”
  • It is estimated that “more than half of the fast fashion produced is disposed of in under a year.”


[1] While it is true that there are now many Internet vintage fashion consignment stores, fast fashion, by its very nature, is not a product they are consigning.


Source: ‘It’s like a death pit’: how Ghana became fast fashion’s dumping ground The Guardian

The fashion industry's dirtiest secret Business Insider


Chuck Dinerstein, MD, MBA

Director of Medicine

Dr. Charles Dinerstein, M.D., MBA, FACS is Director of Medicine at the American Council on Science and Health. He has over 25 years of experience as a vascular surgeon.

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