The True Cost of Our Cheap Clothing: A Double-Edged Sword

As the fourth within the series “The True Cost of Our Cheap Clothing”, which exposes the exploitative world of the fast fashion industry within Thailand, this article explores and challenges the emerging trend of thrift shopping.

Fast fashion leaves a scar on the environment, both before and after consumption. Although the environmental impacts of the garment production process is equally detrimental, what happens after clothing items are discarded is not prevalently discussed. Not enough, that is.

Depending on the material, clothing can be expected to take upwards of 40 years to decompose. However, the most common fabric in the clothing industry is oil-based polyester which takes hundreds of years to decompose; doubling the carbon emissions of cotton (Levy). The accumulation of waste, specifically old clothes, in landfills can result in fires which cause air pollution. During rainfall, waste from landfills can be swept away by the water and clog nearby drainage systems, exacerbating the issue of flooding within Thailand. In addition, waste from landfills can leak into the sea if the sites are situated near the coast, such as one in Phraeksa, Samut Prakan named ‘บ่อขยะแพรกษา’ (Chaiyong). Whatever happened to saving the turtles? 

The best way to become more sustainable is to start at the root of the problem: where we choose to purchase our clothing items. Thrifting or buying second-hand would be best, as that decreases the demand for clothing made from unsustainable and unethical practices. By buying second-hand, we are utilizing resources available thus far, as opposed to depleting the planet of new resources to produce new clothing.

Observably, thrifting, or buying second-hand clothing, has become an emerging trend among Thai consumers. By 2030, the global second-hand clothing market is expected to be worth $84 billion, far surpassing the growth and market size of fast fashion which is predicted to be worth around $40 billion, paling in comparison (Klerk). As the domestic economic recession continues, the consumption of second-hand clothing has unprecedentedly increased as they are cheaper than new clothing items, resulting in the proliferation of thrift stores, weekend markets, flea markets, garage sales, and rummage sales (Kananukul). Such establishments have shifted the perception of consumers toward second-hand clothing into a more positive one. Although thrift stores are not a new invention, their rise is adjusting the status and social standpoint of the lower class, as something they had once been shamed for has become a trend and widely accepted even by those in the upper class.

Something to keep in mind, however, is that second-hand clothing can be just as bad as fast fashion if consumed irresponsibly. In the discussion of overconsumption, buying second-hand clothing can be fast fashion in the sense that it can be equally unsustainable. Only by buying what we deem essential and being gentle to our clothes, regardless of where they were purchased, can we foster an ethical and sustainable second-hand clothing market for people in all corners of the globe.

Works Cited

Chaiyong, Suwitcha. “The High Cost of Fast Fashion.” Https://, 11 Oct. 2021, 

Kananukul, Chawanuan, and Kittichai Watchravesringkan. Exploring the Impact of Consumers’ Second-Hand Clothing Motivations on Shopping Outcomes: An Investigation of Weekend Market Patronage in Thailand. ResearchGate,’_Second-Hand_Clothing_Motivations_on_Shopping_Outcomes_An_Investigation_of_Weekend_Market_Patronage_in_Thailand. 

Klerk, Amy  De. “Secondhand Clothing Market Set to Be Twice the Size of Fast Fashion by 2030.” Harper’s BAZAAR, Harper’s BAZAAR, 23 June 2021, 

Levy, Avital Zivile. “Can Fast Fashion Be Sustainable?” TIPA, 9 July 2021, 


One Comment Add yours

  1. Gopi says:

    an eye-opening article,,expecting more from you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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