According to World Vision Ireland and the Irish Environmental Network, the ‘fast fashion’ industry is the fourth largest cause of environmental pressure.

The NGOs are calling on the next Irish government to take urgent action and put restrictions on the fast fashion industry, to make it more eco-friendly, by moving the sector away from unsustainable production and consumption patterns.

With the hugely damaging global growth of ‘fast fashion’, clothing production has doubled from 2000 to 2014, with more than 150 billion garments now produced annually, and 73% of all textiles ending up in landfill or incineration.

In December, new research from the European Environment Agency highlighted that after food, housing and transport, textiles are the fourth largest cause of environmental pressure.

Pressure on land use

World Vision Ireland and the Irish Environmental Network said that textiles also cause the second highest pressure on land use and are the fifth largest contributor to carbon emissions from household consumption.

The UN states that the textile sector is responsible for between 8 and 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and it estimates that, by 2050, fashion could be responsible for a quarter of all carbon emissions.

“The fast fashion industry is responsible for high carbon emissions, water pollution, and large amounts of landfill waste.” Fiona O’Malley, the Director of Communications at World Vision Ireland, said.

“The fast fashion industry emits 1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent per year. People can reduce their carbon footprint by buying less, using what’s already in their wardrobes, and only shopping at charity shops.

Charity shops

“Shopping at charity shops is a wonderful way to support great causes, and buying garments that are already made, instead of contributing to a supply chain that has very damaging environmental effects.

“We also need the next government to radically transform the textile industry. Real climate action means changing our methods of production and consumption by reassessing how we make, use, and reuse textiles.

“We all have a part to play in fixing our fractured planet, but the government needs to play a pivotal key role in raising awareness of the negative environmental impacts of fast fashion, by planting millions of trees at a rapid rate to capture our enormous carbon emissions, and by supporting Irish businesses that use sustainable textiles in their production lines – which include hemp fibres, nettle fibres, pineapple fibres (known as Pinatex), lotus fibres, and wool.”

Stephane Arditi, Policy Manager for the Circular Economy at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said: “Today’s fashion system makes overconsumption far too easy which is generating huge levels of waste. But we can’t recycle our way out of the problem – products need to be used for longer and waste prevented in the first place.

“Just as they acted on single-use plastics, governments need to urgently act to make options such as repairing, renting, sharing, and swapping more accessible.

“It’s essential to ensure better information is available about what our clothes are made of and develop design requirements for toxic-free materials that can be used again and again.”

In 2019, Sweden made headlines by cancelling fashion week, and from Buy Nothing Day, Second Hand September, to Extinction Rebellion people all over the world stood up for slower fashion.