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The Devastating Effects of Fast Fashion Pollution on the Global South


Shaila Venkat



Fast fashion, characterized by cheaply produced and quickly discarded clothing, has gained popularity worldwide in recent years due to its affordability and ease of access. However, its detrimental impact on the environment and public health cannot be ignored, especially in areas such as the Global South, a region that is being exploited as a dumping ground for textile waste.

Fast fashion's mass production and rapid turnover of clothing items contribute to severe environmental degradation in the Global South. As stated in a report by Boston University's School of Public Health, the disposal of fast fashion garments leads to a significant increase in textile waste, which often ends up in landfills or incinerators. The excessive dumping of clothing waste contributes to soil and water pollution, posing long-term hazards to ecosystems and human health.

Greenpeace International also reveals that many textile factories in the Global South lack adequate waste management systems, causing hazardous chemicals and dyes to seep into local waterways. This pollution not only endangers aquatic life but also affects the livelihoods of communities that rely on these water sources for agriculture and daily needs.

The discarded clothing from fast fashion has direct implications for public health in the Global South, as the improper disposal of textile waste exposes communities to harmful chemicals and pollutants, which can lead to respiratory problems, skin diseases, and even cancer.

Further research from Boston University highlights that the incineration of textile waste releases toxic gases such as dioxins and furans, known to cause serious health issues. The communities residing near these waste incineration sites in the Global South are disproportionately affected, as they often lack access to proper healthcare and suffer from higher rates of respiratory ailments.

Fast fashion's exploitative practices extend beyond environmental and health concerns. Popular brands often outsource production to low-wage countries in the Global South, taking advantage of cheap labor and weak regulations. According to Attire Media, workers in these regions are subjected to unsafe working conditions, low wages, and long hours, perpetuating a cycle of poverty.

Additionally, the Brussels Times highlights how the rapid production demands of fast fashion push textile factories to compromise on safety regulations, leading to deadly accidents. The Global South bears the brunt of these exploitative practices, with workers enduring dire working conditions while the profits primarily benefit large corporations in the Global North.

The impact of fast fashion pollution on the Global South cannot be understated. The environmental degradation, public health risks, and exploitation of workers paint a grim picture of the fashion industry's practices. Urgent action is needed to address this issue, such as promoting sustainable fashion practices, implementing stricter regulations, and holding brands accountable for their supply chains. It is essential to create a more equitable and environmentally conscious fashion industry that respects the rights and well-being of both people and the planet.


Citations

  1. Lundberg, D., & Devoy, J. (2022, September 22). The aftermath of fast fashion. Boston University. https://www.bu.edu/sph/news/articles/2022/the-aftermath-of-fast-fashion-how-discarded-clothes-impact-public-health-and-the-environment/

  2. Wohlgemuth, V. (2023, March 15). How fast fashion is using the Global South as a dumping ground for textile waste. Greenpeace International. https://www.greenpeace.org/international/story/53333/how-fast-fashion-is-using-global-south-as-dumping-ground-for-textile-waste/

  3. Ashworth, E. (2020, June 28). The impacts of fast fashion on the Global South. Attire Media. https://www.attiremedia.com/popular-brands/fast-fashion-global-south

  4. Van der Merwe, D. (2023, February 13). Fast fashion: Mass production suffocating Global South. Brussels Times. https://www.brusselstimes.com/372992/fast-fashion-mass-production-suffocating-global-south

  5. Image from Pexels.com


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