Online Shopping Has Made Us More Wasteful Than Ever Before

by Aria Darcella

Between luxury e-tailers like Farfetch filing for IPO, and high-profile sales like Amazon Prime Day, online shopping is more prevalent than ever before. There is a newfound ease and convenience to shopping — the problem is we don’t know what to do with all the things we’re buying. It ultimately has a negative impact on the environment, as most of our fashion purchases are ending up in the trash.

A recent article in The Atlantic outlines how online shopping seems to be driving Americans to shop more frequently, and with less regard for their purchases. This is especially true for fashion purchases. While buying cheap clothes is as easy as hitting a button, returning them is much more of a hassle, so most people discard clothes they don’t wear. “We are seeing items that have been barely used or not used, because when people shop online, it’s a lot of work to return it,” said William Rogers, president of Goodwill. But while donating unused clothing seems like a logical solution, the amount that we’re consuming has led to donation centers being overwhelmed with items — which wind up in the trash.

Elizabeth Cline, the author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, was quoted estimating that 85% of donated clothing ends up in a landfill. This is also due to the fact that it is difficult to take garments apart to recycle the fabric. The more we buy, the more we discard, the more ends up as trash. Per The Atlantic, between 2000 and 2015 there was a 68% increase in the amount of textiles in “municipal waste streams.”

While the fashion industry (rightfully) takes on a lot of responsibility for the amount of pollution it creates, this particular story highlights how we all play a part in creating fashion waste. It’s a reminder that we should be investing in quality items that will last, buying with purpose, and taking care of our clothes, rather than just replacing them.

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