October 1, 2023


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Fast fashion report cards show what’s really in your clothes

Consumers’ drive for quantity over quality is transforming the world’s textile industry, sparking an almost doubling in global fiber production over the past two decades.

Underpinning the explosive growth is synthetics — in particular polyester. Its cheapness, allowing dresses and t-shirts to be sold for as little as a few dollars, has helped make it the most widely used fabric in the world.

But while polyester is durable, resistant to stains, wrinkles and is lightweight, it’s also a kind of plastic (derived from a chemical reaction involving petroleum, air and water) and can take upwards of 200 years to decompose. That’s made it a lightning rod for criticism of the excesses of the fashion industry, which produces up to 10% of the world’s carbon emissions and is the second-largest consumer of water.

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