War on Waste Ep 3: fast fashion = fast failure

In this week’s episode, the War on Waste tackles fast fashion and I’ve gone into it ready to come out feeling like a terrible person. I currently have three big bags of clothes stacked up in one corner of my room from when I cleaned out my closet a few weeks ago, and my wardrobe is still full. I am the problem.

Craig on the other hand, clearly doesn’t suffer from a fast fashion addiction, as evidenced by how baggy his jeans are and the holes in his shoes.
He starts off by scaling a massive pile of discarded clothing – I wonder about the structural integrity of the pile and how likely it would be for him to start sinking, until all that’s left is a megaphone.

That doesn’t happen, and he tells a crowd of Sydney-siders that the pile is 6 tonnes of clothing. That represents what – a year’s worth of discarded clothing? Lower, he says. A month? A week, an hour? Wrong. This is how many clothes Australia throws out every ten minutes.

Next Craig goes shopping with a group of teenage girls. And hang on just a hot minute – these girls actually only wear things once. What. I thought that was a myth. I thought it was an exaggeration played for laughs in TV sitcoms. But no – they actually literally only wear things once before throwing them away.

That makes me feel a bit better about my own fast fashion impact, considering I have approximately 6 outfits that I cycle through on a continual basis. That doesn’t mean I don’t buy or own more than I need to – but I have the decency to stuff things in the back of my closet, never to be seen again, instead of throwing them in the rubbish.

They delve into the deep-seated psychological needs behind this fast fashion cycle, and it’s social media’s fault, naturally, because we’re all trying to keep up with Kimmy K. The girls explain that they need new outfits for every instagram post. I’m not on instagram personally, but it sounds exhausting.

Nobody wants this kind of traumatic call-out.

Craig takes them to a clothes processing facility that sorts donated clothes, where it’s revealed that charities can spend around $1 million every year to get rid of the unwearable clothes that are donated. Hear that Australia? Stop putting your scungy duds in the Vinnies bin.

He challenges the girls to go a month without buying anything new. “That’s easy,” I say, while scrolling through ASOS.

He also pulls the GPS-in-a-bag trick again, this time at H&M, to see if they really recycle old clothes like they claim they do. The results are inconclusive – I assume we’ll find out when the series returns toward the end of the year.

And speaking of GPS bags, he goes to track down the one he put in a Coles bin, which has been sitting in the same place for ages. He finds it eventually, and works out that it’s on its way to Victoria.

And lo and behold, Coles has agreed to talk to him. He grills them over plastic bags and basically gets a very PR brush off answer that basically boils down to, “But customers want plastic bags!”

He also talks to them about letting ugly bananas into their stores and is more or less told that they stock what they can sell. It’s up to you to demand big, ugly bananas Australia.

Next on Craig’s hitlist is disposable coffee cups. In the first episode, Craig set up a suburban street as ecological guinea pigs to see if they can reduce their waste by recycling and composting, but coffee cups have been tripping them up – can you recycle them? They’re paper right?

Apparently everyone else is confused too, because when Craig rides around in a dump truck (and twelve year old me is kind of jealous) he finds that we’re all just throwing coffee cups in bins all willy nilly. And there’s a truckload – almost literally – of recyclables in the ordinary public bin.

He eventually finds an expert on the matter, and the answer is NO, do not recycle your coffee cup.

Whether you put it in the recycling bin or the ordinary one, it will wind up in landfill. To drive the point home he steals (commandeers, he says) a Melbourne tram, fills it with 50,000 coffee cups and heckles people from the window. The tram driver has never done anything this interesting in his entire life. He is loving it.

Like plastic bags, Craig’s solution is to stop using disposable cups entirely and instead #BYOCoffeeCup or, as he suggests, Bring a mug, ya mug.

That’s the end of War on Waste for a while