How retailers are speeding up fashion cycles and increasing refuse

Many of the textiles end up in landfills as consumers buy low priced clothing more frequently.

BOSTON — Fashion trends have always changed quickly, but these days, it’s happening even faster.

Many retailers are ramping up their schedules when it comes to changing inventory, hoping they can get more customers into their stores to see the latest fashions, and ultimately, buy more clothes.

This concept has its own name: Fast fashion.

Content Continues Below

Stores that used to get deliveries about a dozen times a year are now receiving shipments of new products every two weeks.

Leading the charge are high fashion, low price chains like H&M, Forever 21, and ZARA.

Anne Bernays Trevenen, Dean of the Lasell University School of Fashion, explained the stores want shoppers to feel the need buy something immediately because they fear it will be replaced by something else in this shortened cycle.

Fast fashion means more clothes are bought, but since these lines might not be as well made, or they appear to be out of style more quickly, they’re getting discarded in droves.

“Recent reports have shown that we are throwing away about 60 percent of the clothes that we buy every year,” said Cindy Luppi, New England Director for Clean Water Action.

Often these lightly used clothes are ending up in landfills and incinerators. Many of these garments created a lot of pollution when they were first made.

“Manufacturers of clothing are often based in countries that are heavy coal producers. Coal is the most polluting fuel that we have and it’s also the biggest polluter into our waterways,” added Luppi.

Trash sits in a landfill.
Trash sits in a landfill. (Boston 25 News)

At the Ash & Rose Boutique in the South End, all of the clothes are planet-friendly, including blue jeans that are made from recycled plastic bottles.

Shop owner Mary Savoca is finding more shoppers interested in clothes that last longer and don’t have a large carbon footprint.

Although Savoca is encouraged by increasing sales, she says, in the end, shoppers still want fashionable clothes and that only a few of them are making sustainable items a priority.

“As businesses that are trying to be more sustainable, that have taken it upon ourselves to be more sustainable, we just have to make great products that are better than the alternatives, and that’s how we get more people on board.”

Another issue is that about 60 % of today’s clothes are made with synthetic fabrics, which are petroleum-based and create additional threats to air and water quality.

The experts Boston 25 News spoke with said shoppers should always recycle clothes, even if they’re well worn. The fibers can be re-used and will stay out of landfills and incinerators.

Another suggestion is to look for stores that take back old clothes, sometimes even offering a credit on a future purchase.

Clothes on the rack at Ash & Rose in Boston's South End.
Clothes on the rack at Ash & Rose in Boston's South End. (Bob Dumas/Boston 25 News)