Fast Fashion and the Destruction of Developing Countries

Photo by delpentax on Flickr


If you’re reading‘s blog, then the chances are high that you have an interest in environmentally friendly fashion. I work for a waste management and recycling company in the UK called Forge Recycling, and we recently did some research into clothing and fashion in terms of waste, recycling, and environmental impact. We are keen to share the results with you, as we found some shocking statistics. For example, did you know that in conventional cotton farming it has been estimated that only 0.1% of applied pesticides reach the target pests, leaving the remaining 99.9% to wreak havoc on the environment? This is why shops such as exist; organic cotton is so important for our planet. Please take a look below, and find out more about cotton farming and textile waste.
Best wishes,
Lucy Ravenhall
Content Manager, Forge Recycling

Fast Fashion and the Destruction of Developing Countries



It’s a little known fact that us Brits wear just 70 per cent of the clothes that we have stored away in our wardrobes, which leaves us with a total of 1.7 billion unused items. On average, a consumer keeps their garments for three years, but even more shocking than this is the fact that something might be frequently worn in the first year, and then phased into the stockpile of unworn clothes later on. That is why the average British closet is so overstuffed: we don’t wear all of the clothes we own.
The spending habits of the average person in the West have changed dramatically over the last hundred or so years when it comes to buying clothing. Between 2002 and 2003, for example, people in the US spent, on average, four per cent of their income on clothes, whereas back between the years of 1934 and 1946, clothing used up 12 per cent of people’s incomes. The current average expenditure per item in the USA is $14.60. Don’t go thinking that we are all consuming less though. On average, just one person in the UK will produce 70 Kg of textiles waste per year – that is a lot of clothing. Cheap, fast fashion means we are spending less yet buying more.


So, what will happen after you clean out your closet?
The best way to rid your wardrobe of unwanted clothes is to donate them to a charity shop, as this generates revenue for the charity.


Donated garments are sold in charity shops, but any clothes that aren’t sold will be resold to the used-clothing industry. These clothes are sorted into piles based on potential markets (type, condition of the clothes, and fabrics). The sorting process is actually quite labour-intensive because it is often done by hand. After sorting, the clothes will be distributed all over the world, but in fact, most of them end up in countries such as Poland, Ghana, Kenya, and Benin. So, what begins as a charitable donation can end up as a trading commodity.


Although this process is good for the charity, it could be argued that this process destroys the textile industries of importing countries. In fact, as a result of this issue, over 30 African countries have actually prohibited import embargos of used clothes.


Destinations of end-of-life clothing
Destinations of end-of-life clothing (Wrap)


From the sorting process, there will also be unwearable garments left over. These are sold to “shoddy industries”.


These industries disassemble garments into shreds, fibre or rags. It is a mechanical process that breaks down clothes with carding machines into fibre components; producing less material than before. These materials are then used as a stuffing in coffins, mattresses, and upholstery. An innovative company, IRIS Industries, is currently using these shredded materials and converting them into furniture or countertops.


Click here to continue reading the full article at Forge Recycling.
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Autumn Equinox Give-a-Way: Upcycled VHS Tape Handbag

I mentioned this adorable handbag a few weeks ago, and now it’s up for grabs.  These bags are handmade by artist Lisa Miqueli from old VHS tapes!  It’s a fabulous idea for creating new life from something that’s no longer useful.  This one is called the Candice, and it’s lined on the inside with leftover fabric bits. 

TO ENTER: Leave a comment on this blog post by midnight Sunday, October 2, 2010. You must include an e-mail address or phone number so we can contact you. Drawing will be held on Monday, Oct 3.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  We’re expecting (OK, hoping anyway) that the winner will provide feedback on this bag. Our intention is to bring them in for sale before the holidays – both this design and some others as well.  The artist is willing to work with us to address anything we’d like to change, so your input will be extremely valuable.

If you want to know how this idea came about, here’s a little story from our artist:

It all started one day when I ran out of yarn and wanted to start a new project, not wanting to go to the store, I looked around the house to see what I could use. I had twine, so I made a basket. I had plastic bags and had actually seen them crocheted so I tried my hand at that. One thing led to another and I have come to this. I think tapes are one of my favorite mediums to work with, I love the fabric it creates. The texture and shine are wonderful. Then I started noticing all the VHS and cassette tapes in the thrift stores that I frequent. Always the same ones there, never seeming to sell. I thought, if they don’t sell them they will eventually throw them away. More usable stuff in a land fill!

So I started buying them up. I make my rounds at least twice a week and buy up the 8-tracks, cassettes and VHS tapes. As well as necklaces (for straps) and any clothing that will make a nice lining.

I love taking new materials, visualizing and sketching a new design, and then watching it come to life. A lot of care is taken to choose just the right recycled materials to make my bags.” — Lisa Miqueli

I’ve looked at it, held it and played with it a bit myself and here are my thoughts.


  • Pretty roomy inside
  • Lots of pockets inside and out
  • Nice, funky look to it
  • Seems pretty sturdy
  • Black goes with everything
  • Definitely a conversation piece!
  • And of course, great re-use of materials


  • The hole for the button closure could be bigger and/or more flexible.  It’s a little hard to close.
  • The strap is a bit stiff (great for the bag part, not as good for the strap) and doesn’t fall as smoothly as I’d like, though I’d like to hear the winners opinion on this point.

With all that said, it’s now time to leave your comment for this fantastic give-a-away.  Guys, you’ll definitely want to participate in this one too, as this makes an awesome, totally unique gift for any women in your life. 🙂

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Product Shipping – Environmental Considerations & Customer Satisfaction ships everything through the US Postal Service.  Both UPS and Fedex have better tracking information and more integrated web-based solutions which would make switching to one of those carriers faster and more efficient for our office staff.  Unfortunately, there are 3 big downfalls to both of those options. 

First, both UPS and Fedex are more expensive than the US Postal Service when shipping small items to individuals.  If you’re shipping large freight and/or mostly to business addresses, that is not true.  But for us, the good old USPS is cheaper for more than 95% of our everyday shipping needs – including overnight.

Second, while this may seem odd, USPS is actually faster for standard shipping than either of the other carriers. Priority Mail is a standard mailing option that generally takes 2-3 business days to anywhere in the country.  Faster, cheaper shipping generally makes happier customers, so those are both good points for us.  And despite the jokes often heard about their reputation, we’ve not had a single package “lost in the mail” within the US since we’ve been in business.

Finally, although UPS and Fedex have been “greening” their trucks and delivery methods, the fact is that the US Postal Service visits almost every household in America every day anyway.  I live in a community with 89 homes.  USPS delivers to at least 80 of them every business day, whereas I’ve often seen the UPS and Fedex trucks come into the community to deliver a single package.  I have to believe that a lot more fuel is being wasted on “special trips” to single homes here and there rather than just adding a package to a destination that is already being covered.  (Though in truth, I have no data to back this up – but it seems sensible to me.)

This year we’re trying to ship more items in the cardboard envelops rather than the Tyvek bags whenever possible.  Besides the flat rate cardboard being slightly less expensive to ship, it is easier to reuse and recycle.  We are happy to point out that all of the USPS shipping supplies have achieved the environmental cradle-to-cradle certification for sustainability and health concerns.

Also, don’t worry if your package comes with some packing materials or even bubble wrap.  All of our packing materials (except the recycled tissue paper we wrap undergarments in) are reused from shipments we get in.  We like wrapping purses with metal zippers as well as jewelry in bubble wrap.  Even though we don’t use very much, early on we found we wanted more bubble wrap than we were getting.  Then a local tech company moved their offices and I got a great idea.  After the move we asked them what they were going to do with their packing supplies.  They were reusing boxes, which is good, but they were going to toss out the mounds of bubble wrap and packing materials they had purchased just for the move.  Viola!  We scored enough bubble wrap to last us for years to come and diverted it from becoming a big landfill mess.  We also bring all packing peanuts we get in to a local mailing center for reuse.  We hope you reuse the packing materials you get from us as well.  Most of these things can be reused again and again.
We’re happy to hear suggestions on packing and shipping.  One person suggested we try Freecycle to get reused packing supplies.  We’ve posted want ads, but thus far haven’t had any response.  We’re always looking for new ideas to minimize waste though; so keep the suggestions coming. 

Happy New Year everyone!

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Sunday, November 15 is America Recycles Day

November 15 is America Recycles Day.  (Of course, looking at the name, I immediately wonder why there isn’t a World Recycles Day.)  In 2009, I wonder why we need this.  By now, recycling should be a gimme.  There are recycling drop off stations in almost every city and town; many of us now enjoy curbside recycling; and there are tons of information sources from Real Simple and E-Magazine to the Environmental Protection Agency on how to recycle just about anything.  In addition, there are fabulous groups like Freecycle and resources such as Craigslist where you can sell, swap or just give away your old stuff to someone who might want or need it.

November 15 isn’t the one day in the year when you should recycle.  It’s a day marked out to evaluate how you are doing on recycling.  Let’s all try to improve recycling efforts both at home and in our workplace.  Of course, the less you use, the less you need to recycle.  Maybe November 15 is the day you finally buy that reusable Starbucks cup (or the equivalent at your favorite coffee shop), start packing your child’s lunch sandwiches in Tupperware instead of zip lock bags or put out a bin in the office to collect cans.  (Hint: if you don’t want to recycle them yourself, you can often find a Girl Scout or Boy Scout troop leader that will pick them up for you.)

Whatever you do, make one change starting now.  Add one small step to live greener.  You may be surprised by how good it feels.

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It’s that time again… Eco-Friendly Gift Wrapping

I had planned on doing a post about eco-wrapping later this holiday season.  Today I was going to write a bit about the first ever Eco-Model, Rachel Avalon, who won the Project Green Search eco-model competition.  I had the chance to meet Rachel very briefly last week at the first ever Green Bloggers Convention.  (On a side note, it’s thrilling to see all these new environmentally-focused events popping up.  More and more people are taking action to dance lightly on our planet.)

To my surprise, while I was looking for an introduction on Rachel, I found this fantastic little video that she produced on… you guessed it… eco-friendly gift wrapping.  So here’s Rachel introducing herself better than I ever could with some awesome green holiday tips.

In addition to all of Rachel’s great ideas, one of my personal favorites is wrapping gifts with the Sunday comics section.  If you happen to have any old maps lying around, they also make great wrapping paper. 
Reusable gift bags are good in a pinch as well.  Although many of them are made from virgin materials, well made ones can be used again and again.  I’ve had some holiday gift bags pass back and forth between family members for years.  Just fold them after use and store them for next year.
We offer a selection of tree-free gift bags made from a mix of kenaf, hemp, sugar cane, flax and recycled materials that will last through many gift exchanges.

If your child is asked to sell gift wrap through a school or event fundraiser, be sure to mention to the coordinator that you’d like to see recycled gift wrap on offer next year.  Many of the fundraising companies don’t receive a lot of requests or feedback, so letting them know what you would purchase can really make a difference.  If you have a chance to write or e-mail the company directly, take it.

As a final thought, if you’re purchasing any holiday gifts from, you can always have us gift wrap them for you using 100% recycled apparel boxes (65% post-consumer) with 100% post-consumer recycled tissue paper and 100% post-industrial recycled kraft gift wrap finished with natural raffia ribbon.  New for this holiday, we just got in this festive tree motif recycled kraft wrapping paper design.

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Swap Your Halloween Costume this Sat, Oct 10

Folks who live in Los Angeles have a unique opportunity to swap their old Halloween costumes with other eco-savvy swappers.  Swap-O-Rama-Rama is hosting a Halloween costume swap in Venice, CA.  What a great way to reduce our holiday footprint.  You can also bring pre-loved clothing items and swap them for new-to-you fashions – a true eco-fashion initiative.  Both adult and children’s costumes are welcome.

After you’ve found your treasure, design stations are set up where you can hem, silk screen or appliqué your new clothing to make it unique to you.  What a fun idea!  Here are the details:

Saturday October 10, 2009, 12 noon to 5pm
Swap-O-Rama-Rama – Halloween Costume and General Clothing

Venice Center for Peace with Justice and the Arts,
located at Venice United Methodist Church
2210 Lincoln Blvd (at Victoria, just north of Venice Blvd)
Venice, Ca 90291

For more information, visit:

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