The fashion industry’s non-biodegradable waste problem and the solution of sustainable clothing

The fashion industry, often associated with glamour and luxury, has played a significant role in the global crisis of clothing and textile non-biodegradable waste contributing heavily to environmental degradation. It is alarming to note that the fashion industry’s carbon footprint accounts for 10% of global emissions, and its projected growth is set to consume two-thirds of the world’s carbon budget by 2030, compounding the severity of the issue.

Adding to the gravity of the situation is the fact that synthetic fibres, such as polyester, nylon, and spandex, which are commonly used in clothing production, are non-biodegradable and can take centuries to decompose. The release of toxic chemicals and microplastics into the environment is a tragic consequence of this reality. In addition to the issue of clothing and textile waste, the manufacturing of these materials themselves has precipitated an environmental catastrophe. For example, rayon, a popular fabric made from wood pulp, is often produced using harmful chemicals and deforestation practices, contributing to the destruction of natural habitats and biodiversity loss. The use of non-biodegradable materials in the fabrication of apparel presents a recycling conundrum, with such substances frequently ending up in landfills or incinerators, thus engendering pollution of the planet.

In addition, the insatiable demand for fast fashion/trendy clothing has fuelled the production of cheap, low-quality garments that are quickly discarded, adding to the global waste problem. However, a growing awareness of the ecological impact of fashion has led to the emergence of sustainable clothing, a promising solution to the industry’s environmental woes. Sustainable clothing is designed to reduce the environmental impact of fashion by using eco-friendly and biodegradable materials and employing ethical and sustainable manufacturing practices. The benefits of sustainable clothing extend beyond the environmental realm, encompassing better working conditions for garment workers, improved quality and durability of clothing, and a deeper appreciation of the art of craftsmanship.

The slower and more intricately the clothes are made, the better they are. Sustainable clothing is not just about using eco-friendly materials but also emphasising the art of craftsmanship. It’s essential to appreciate the skill and effort that goes into making clothing that is designed to last, rather than creating fast fashion that is disposable. Reinforcing this shift towards conscious consumption, prestigious fashion house recently staged their first-ever calendar show in India, showcasing their Fall 2023 collection and paying homage to the country’s rich heritage of craftsmanship.

In India, sustainable clothing is not merely a response to the ecological crisis; it is also deeply rooted in the country’s rich history and heritage. We have a long tradition of using natural fabrics, such as cotton, silk, and linen, which are sustainable and biodegradable. Ownership of heirloom pieces and passing them down through generations is a common practice in our culture, emphasising the value of durable and timeless clothing. The Indian textile industry is also renowned for its skilled artisans and craftsmanship, with intricate embroidery and embellishments that showcase the country’s artistic heritage. Sustainable fashion in India is, therefore, not just a trend but a way of life, preserving traditional techniques and promoting sustainable livelihoods for local artisans.

The rise of sustainable clothing has gained popularity among Indian consumers, with a growing interest in ethical and eco-friendly fashion brands. These brands embody the spirit of positive change and responsible consumerism, appealing to those who value sustainability, quality, and durability over fleeting fashion trends. It is worth highlighting the growing interest among Indian consumers in sustainable clothing, which has resulted in a flourishing of sustainable fashion brands, embodying a spirit of positive change and responsible consumerism.

India is already leading the way in the use of biodegradable and plant-based materials in clothing production. Companies like Ultrawleather offer a surrealistic alternative to non-biodegradable materials, which are made entirely from bio-based leather. India’s artisanal traditions also offer unique opportunities to create sustainable clothing that is not just eco-friendly but also steeped in rich cultural heritage. Sustainable clothing brands, and many others have made significant strides in promoting sustainable fashion in India.

The adoption of sustainable clothing has far-reaching implications beyond just the environmental impact. The production of sustainable clothing often involves fair labour practices and ethical sourcing of materials, providing better working conditions and wages for garment workers. This results in a positive impact on local communities, promoting sustainable livelihoods for artisans and textile workers. Sustainable clothing promotes a more mindful and intentional approach to fashion consumption, emphasising quality over quantity and valuing the art of craftsmanship. This aligns with traditional Indian values of sustainable living, where the concept of waste not, want not, is ingrained in our culture.

To conclude, the environmental impact of the fashion industry cannot be underestimated, and the urgency of addressing this issue is paramount. Sustainable clothing offers a promising solution to the industry’s ecological woes and a way forward towards a more sustainable future. India, with its rich history of sustainable practices, is well-positioned to lead the way in the global shift towards sustainable fashion. With the increasing awareness and demand for sustainable clothing among Indian consumers, the future of fashion looks bright, with a focus on eco-friendly materials, ethical manufacturing practices, and an appreciation for traditional craftsmanship.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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