top of page

Fashion Sustainability in a nutshell.

A beginners guide to understanding why being a responsible consumer matters.

Dear Swapaholics,


Contributing towards a positive impact begins with awareness. This report is designed to do just that. We hope to open your eyes as to a few reasons why the fashion industry is the second largest polluting industry and more importantly what WE can collectively do about it. We hope our efforts motivate you to swap your mindset and actions for the betterment of our planet and people. 

Consciously yours,

The Swap Squad

NOTE: This report is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problems of the fashion industry. We've chosen a few examples out of the industry's many, many issues. Should these surprise you, we hope that you will dig deeper.

Singapore's Relationship With Fashion


CHAPTER 1 Singapore’s Relationship With Fashion

A Buy More, Throw More Mindset

Singaporeans buy 34 pieces of new clothing and discard 27 yearly.

Channel NewsAsia

7 /10 Singaporeans are shopaholics

Singapore Business Review 2011

Your paragraph text.png

Shopping has become a national pastime in Singapore with fast fashion satisfying our material desires. Why is this a problem, you ask?


Because fast fashion just like fast food - cheap, accessible, addictive BUT detrimental to the planet and its people. As the cost of fast fashion is astoundingly affordable, we regard it as 'disposable'. We rarely consider the true cost of our fashion which consists of environmental and social exploitation well beyond the price tag. 

Since we have the financial ability to overconsume at a rapid pace, we feed the fashion industry's capitalistic need to overproduce. Thus, a lack of consciousness has created a throwaway culture. This buy-and-throw mindset fuels capitalism whilst destroying our planet's resources and creating huge amounts of fashion and textile waste.


CHAPTER 1 Singapore’s Relationship With Fashion

An Affluent Country

Text Templates-02.png

Singapore is the 2nd richest country. 

With greater purchasing power, consumers naturally buy more than what they need. Between 2000 and 2014, we have increased our clothes by 60%.

60% increase in

fashion purchases

According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), the total amount of waste generated corresponds to the increasing population size and wealth. Experts claim that richer countries and cities will generate more waste.



CHAPTER 1 Singapore’s Relationship With Fashion

No Textile Recycling Facility 

swapaholic slide 9-2.png

Fashion waste is doomed to emit methane, a harmful greenhouse gas at the end of its life.


In Singapore today, only 4% of textile and fashion waste is recycled. This is the lowest recycling rate among all other types of waste, which is surprising because 99% of textile waste can be recycled in some way or form!


Singapore, unlike other countries, does not have a textile recycling facility. Hence, the amount of textile waste that is recorded as ‘recycled’, mainly consists of our clothes that are exported to third world countries.

96% of textile waste in Singapore is either incinerated or remains in a landfill. Both of which, emit greenhouse gases into our environment. 

CHAPTER 1 Singapore’s Relationship With Fashion

Limited Places To Donate

Chapter 1-19.png

Our red dot has limited outlets for secondhand due to our small size and high spending abilities. As such, most textile donations are shipped to less fortunate countries. However, these countries are increasingly rejecting our old clothes! With new clothes being produced weekly, there is a surplus of clothes that are taking over the world. 

More third-world countries are planning to ban the imports of second-hand clothes to protect their local textile industry which is adversely impacted by donations. In March 2016, the East African Community, which includes Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Burundi, announced its plans to do so and more countries are planning to follow suit.


What will happen to our pre-loved clothes now?


CHAPTER 1 Singapore’s Relationship With Fashion

Only One landfill


The Semakau Landfill is Singapore's first and only landfill. It was estimated that the landfill, which began operations on 1 Apr 1999, will last until 2045. However, recent statistics show that it will run out of space by 2035, a decade sooner than what was projected.


From 2008 to 2019,  textile waste produced has increased more than 80% in terms of mass. With 96% of our textile waste being sent to the Semakau Landfill in 2019 and a greater percentage expected in the future due to the foreign import bans, this is becoming an increasingly pressing issue for the textile waste industry.

Textile recycling

Impact Of Fashion's Life Cycle 


CHAPTER 2 Impact of Fashion's Life Cycle


Every stage of the fashion & textile lifecycle is filled with negative environmental and social impacts. The sections below give you a tiny glimpse into a few such examples in each stage.


Design & Development

Fashion Report Visuals-05.png

Processing & Manufacturing


Retail & Consumer Use

End of Life

Life Cycle

CHAPTER 2 Impact of Fashion's Life Cycle

Design & Development Impacts





91% of garment workers are physically abused. 

To cater to this, the industry is designing and sampling huge quantities of fashion. 



Fashion is not designed to optimize the use of materials. It is an industrial trend/norm for designers to buy fabric excessively to meet minimum order quantities.


Additionally, left over scraps from the designs (called cutoffs) contribute towards a lot of waste! In China, Bangladesh and India alone, cutoffs amounting to $20 billion are discarded annually.


With a lack of market for these unused and leftover materials, this waste's fate lies in landfills and incinerators. 


To meet the unrealistic demand of the capitalistic industry, forced and slave labour are employed.

Garment workers are forced to work 14 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week.


To prototype and develop these garments cheaply, garment workers often work long hours and in poor environments.

They are usually on informal contracts, being self-employed home-based workers or sub-contracted home-based workers. They have no rights, contracts, or assurances. They're paid lower than minimum wage and work around the clock - literally! 


Design &

CHAPTER 2 Impact of Fashion's Life Cycle

Processing & Manufacturing Impacts




The industry is responsible for 20% of global water pollution and 10% of annual carbon emissions.

Textile factories dump used water from dyeing into water bodies. The water is usually contaminated with unregulated chemicals and heavy metals such as mercury, lead, nickel, cobalt, cadmium, sulphur, and arsenic. This causes immense water pollution and kills marine life, adversely affecting our ecological balance. 


In fact, around 8000 chemicals (many of which are harmful) are used in the garment production process!


This might explain why the industry is also responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions (more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.)

1100 garment workers dead and 2400 injured in the collapse of Rana Plaza, a Bangladeshi factory.

Bangladesh is the world’s biggest exporter of clothing after China. Its ready-made garments sector accounts for 80% of the country’s exports, employing over 3.5 million people, 75% of whom are women.


Rana Plaza, a textile factory producing fashion for the world's largest brands, collapsed in 2013. It woke us up to the degrading conditions workers are exploited to work under.

Along with a poor environment, they have no protection or safety from hazardous processes and chemicals. Negative effects of this exposure range from hormone disruption, neurological damage, cancer to fire hazards!


CHAPTER 2 Impact of Fashion's Life Cycle

Transportation Impacts




Your tee travelled 32,000 kilometres to get to you. Each year, approximately 2 billion

T-shirts are sold. Do the math.

15 of the biggest ships emit as much pollution as 750 million cars.

An ordinary cotton T-shirt would start its journey on a farm, say in Mississippi, the USA where the cotton is grown.


The raw cotton is then shipped in bales to Columbia or Indonesia, where the raw cotton is spun to yarn. The yarn is then shipped to Bangladesh, where it is spun into fabric. It's washed, dyed, and shipped back to developed countries like U.S. or Italy for decoration and distribution.

90% of garments are transported by ship every year. This low-grade bunker fuel burned is 1,000x dirtier than the diesel used in the trucking industry.


While we don’t know what percentage of cargo garments the world’s 9,0000 container ships comprise of, we do know that a single ship can produce as much cancer and asthma-causing pollutants as 50 million cars in just one year. 

Although pollution by the shipping industry, (which has boomed over the past 20 years) affects the health of those living in coastal and inland regions globally, the emissions of such ships go mostly unregulated.

Retiail &

CHAPTER 2 Impact of Fashion's Life Cycle

Retail & Consumer Use Impacts




While people bought 60% more garments in 2014 than in 2000, they only kept the clothes for half as long.

Popular fast fashion chains are selling lead-contaminated purses, belts and shoes above the legal amount.

85% of all textiles we see in retail outlets go to the dump each year. One garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second!

It doesn't end there. Plastic waste comes along with colossal fashion waste. Fashion packaging takes up almost 1/3 of ALL plastic production, with only 14% of it being recycled

The post-purchase choices that we consumers make also contribute towards waste. For example, washing clothes releases microfibres that are equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles into our oceans each year!

As consumers, our desire to purchase cheaper is providing brands the license to use poorer quality materials. 

Lead exposure has been linked to harming both mother and fetus, higher rates of infertility in women, and increased risks of heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure.


While lead use is limited to certain products and brands, most of our fashion is laced with pesticides, insecticides, formaldehyde, flame-retardants, and other known carcinogens!

CHAPTER 2 Impact of Fashion's Life Cycle

End of Use Impacts

Fashion Report Visuals-05.png



4% of global landfills are filled with textile waste.

The global fashion industry generates 13 million tons of textile waste worldwide, 95% of which does not need to end up in a landfill. The majority of countries do not have a proper textile recycling program and thus resort to burning fashion, known as incineration, or letting it lie in landfills for centuries. 

Incinerating fashion releases unfathomably high carbon dioxide (CO2) into our environment, owing to the 8000 chemicals that our clothes are manufactured with! 

Reaching the landfill is no better. Due to these chemicals, our fashion cannot biodegrade and can sit in landfills for up to 200 years! During the slow degradation of fabrics, they release approximately 3-4 times their mass in methane, an explosive greenhouse gas.


Equally scary, when materials in the landfills get rained upon, they produce toxic groundwater which destroys the ecological cycle from soil to water bodies, to flora, fauna, and humans that rely on these natural resources.

Our clothes can cause cancer, lung & respiratory ailments.

Greenhouse gases emitted from fashion waste damage our ozone layer, and propagate respiratorily, and health problems.

Research has shown that greenhouse gases such as CO2 are powerful carcinogens, that can result in cancer, cardiac or respiratory problems, to say the least.

Greenhouse gases exuded from textile landfills can also cause acid rain, a known cause of respiratory diseases.

End of Use

The Future of Fashion


The fate of the fashion industry is in our hands. It's easy to pass blame, but in reality all the stakeholders must work together to alleviate the colossal environmental and social burden caused by the industry.

It starts with us as consumers as our collective voice and actions are the most powerful. 


CHAPTER 3 The Future of Fashion

What Consumers Can Do

Fashion Report Visuals-31_edited.png

Become aware


Fashion Report Visuals-31_edited.png

Borrow, Rent

Fashion Report Visuals-31_edited.png

Hold brands accountable 

Fashion Report Visuals-31_edited.png

Swap & Buy Preloved

Fashion Report Visuals-31_edited.png

Use what you have

Fashion Report Visuals-31_edited.png

Buy what you need

CHAPTER 3 The Future of Fashion

What Brands Can Do


Adopt ethical labour practices 



Avoid animal cruelty



Choose sustainable materials


Fashion Report Visuals-31_edited.png

Slow down production

Fashion Report Visuals-31_edited.png

No greenwashing


Use Natural Dyes

CHAPTER 3 The Future of Fashion

What Governments Can Do

Fashion Report Visuals-31_edited.png

Design policies that protect our planet & it's people​.



Regulate the use of safe chemicals & processes in the industry. 



Work with brands to be provide better working conditions for workers.



RESOURCES in-the-Clothing-Industry.pdf West-just-20p-day-children-forced-work-horrific-unregulated-workshops-Bangladesh.html

bottom of page