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We can’t afford to waste clothes, especially unworn ones.

Clothing and other textiles are piling up in landfills around the country faster than any other type of trash we throw away in the United States. This problem is too big to ignore.

The first step in reducing fashion waste is to stop the practice of throwing away overstock clothing — clothing that was never sold. Ultimately, clothing retailers and manufacturers should not encourage overproduction in their supply chains and, when clothing does go unsold, they should find ways to reuse or recycle the material. Brands have the power to help make waste a fashion trend of the past.

The fashion industry generates a lot of waste

Clothing and other textile waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the country. Around the world, the equivalent of one dump truck filled with clothing and textiles is sent to a landfill or incinerator every second.

Millions of these clothing items that end up as waste are never even sold to customers. Many retailers destroy, landfill or incinerate unsold clothing (known as overstock) to make way for new merchandise. This practice creates a serious waste problem.

New trends push unworn clothes out

The huge amount of waste alone is cause for concern. But throwing away brand new clothes means the resource-intensive process required to make new clothes must then be repeated over and over again as brands update their stock for the next fashion cycle. Producing just one cotton t-shirt emits the same amount of greenhouse gas as driving a car for about 10 miles and requires more than 700 gallons of water. Synthetic clothes are also a major contributor to ocean plastic pollution. Clothing production and use could spew 22 million metric tons of microplastics to the ocean between 2015 and 2050.

All of this merchandise pollutes the environment long after it winds up trashed. Clothing dumped in landfills releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Incinerating garments creates harmful air pollution. Neither option is acceptable.

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Stop trashing overstock

The solution is simple: Clothing manufacturers and retailers need to stop producing more clothing than we can wear. When retailers have overstock, there are many better alternatives than trashing it. Brand new clothing can easily be kept on shelves, sold to brand-run outlet stores or secondhand stores, donated, repurposed and reused in other products, or recycled into new garments.