Waste in clothing industries

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Clothing Industry Waste: Statistics

The fashion industry is one of the most profitable yet destructive industries on earth. It generates 1.5 trillion dollars every year and textile production is estimated increase by 63% by 2030. The textile industry has been identified in recent years as a major contributor to plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. The Pulse which is a performance score used for measuring and tracking the sustainability of the global fashion industry on key environmental and social impact areas ranks the fashion industry at 38/100. 10 statistics we found on waste in the global clothing industry is listed below.

10 Statistics On Waste In The Global Clothing Industry


  • Discarded clothing made of non-biodegradable fabrics can sit in landfills for up to 200 years.
  • It takes 2,700 liters of water to make a single T-shirt which is equivalent to the water a person would drink in 2.5 years.
  • According to the Envionmental Protection Agency, 11.9 million tons of waste was generated in 2015 from clothing.
  • 17-20% of global freshwater pollution steams from the dying and treatment of textiles.
  • Washing a single polyester garment can shed 1,900 individual microplastic fibers into the water supply, which in the longer run end up in the ocean.
  • The global apparel and footwear industry accounts for 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Polyester is present in 60% of the clothing used and it can take decades to degrade.
  • 2,625 kilograms of clothing is either burned or disposed in landfills every second.
  • 35% of all materials in the supply chain end up as waste before reaching the consumer
  • The fashion industry is expected to generate 148 million tons of waste by 2030; which is equivalent to annual waste of 17.5 kg per capita across the globe.

Research Strategy

To find 10 statistics on waste in the global clothing industry, we searched industry reports for facts and statistics related to clothing, textile, and fashion. We also searched leading environmental websites, and news resources. Majority of sources cited scholar and environmental publication which we cross-checked for accuracy. We them compiled a list of what we assumed to be the 10 most thought-provoking statistics as our findings.
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Quotes
  • "Cumulatively, the fashion industry produces about 20% of global waste water. Furthermore, 85% of textiles end up in landfills or are incinerated when most of these materials could be reused."
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  • "EPA estimates that the generation of clothing and footwear was 11.9 million tons in 2015 (4.5 percent of total MSW)."
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  • "By sampling wastewater from domestic washing machines, Browne estimated that around 1,900 individual fibers can be rinsed off a single synthetic garment - ending up in our oceans."
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  • "Polyester is present in 60 percent of today’s clothing, and it can take decades to degrade. About 21.3 million tons of polyester was used in clothing this year, a 157 percent increase from 2000. Fossil fuels are needed to produce polyester, and the material's carbon footprint is almost three times that of cotton."