Described as the dirty secret of the fashion industry, the fate of many unsold luxury garments is rarely publicised. With no obligations to disclose any such information, many of the world’s biggest fashion houses burn, shred and landfill garments belonging to previous seasons. Not only does this neglect environmental responsibilities in the fashion industry, but it also undermines the creativity and design invested in the garments.
The case of Burberry in 2018, to some extent, catalysed an increased awareness of the nature of the fashion industry. It was reported that the FTSE 100 company had destroyed over £90 million worth of goods over the past 5 years. Yet, Burberry is not the only company that destroys products as a response to a surplus of stock. For many brands, burning surplus products is simply easier and cheaper than finding ways to effectively re-market them.
The fashion industry’s overall impact on the environment is insurmountable. It is the second-biggest industry for the consumption of water. On average, the cultivation of 1kg of raw cotton needs 10,000 litres of water; cotton being the material used in a third of globally produced textiles. In addition, global emissions from textile production are equivalent to 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2, a figure that outweighs the carbon footprint of international flights and shipping combined, and even so, it is estimated that 35% of those materials in the supply chain still go to waste.