Technology is one of man’s greatest inventions. It has brought the world together and makes it easy to study, work and even shop online. Some of the popular shopping destinations include Amazon and eBay, where you buy anything from the comfort of your home and have it delivered. Another popular destination is Shein, an online platform for fashion and accessories.
Shein consists of different categories of clothes like women’s clothing, men’s clothing, kids’ clothing, shoes and accessories. However, the one-stop destination for fashionistas has come heavily under criticism over products that are bad for the environment? Is this true? How bad are they really? Are they substandard? This article answers all these and more questions.
How Bad is Shein For the Environment?
Shein receives very low scores, from the quality of their apparel, to how they are against the environment. First, they use materials that are not fit for the environment at all. They include hazardous chemicals to microplastics, all of which results in carbon emissions and thus global warming and climate change.
In addition, when released into the environment, the microfibres will act as a magnet for organic pollutants and absorb toxic stuff from detergents and fire retardant chemicals they meet in the waste systems. They will be ingested by sea animals who will mistake them for food, endangering them, not forgetting humans who later consume the sea creatures.
Secondly, Shein mass-produces cheap and poorly-made clothing and perpetuates a throwaway fashion culture simply by existing. In making the substandard products, no one knows how many laws are broken, and the complete amount of suffering endured by the laborers as well as the environment
Thirdly, and speaking of laborers, Shein makes as much effort for its laborers as it does for the environment. It will therefore come as no surprise to learn that the workers might not have had ample protection from the impacts of COVID-19.
Next, animals are also part of nature, and unfortunately, the fashion industry. They might not use leather, exotic animal hair, fur, down, angora, or exotic animal skin in their products, but they do use wool without stating sources.
This, therefore, means they might not have the policy to minimize the suffering of animals and cannot trace any animal products even to the first stage of production.
Finally, aside from using a couple of eco-friendly materials here and there, there is no evidence the brand is taking any meaningful action to reduce its substantial impact on the environment.
Why is Shein Bad For the Environment?
The production relies on harmful chemicals
To produce their fast clothing, they rely on harmful chemicals like dyes. These chemicals poison our soil and water, resulting in harm to human and marine life. The chemicals, primarily pesticides, are also used by farmers to grow the materials needed to produce all these trendy fast fashion items. This results in additional harm to the planet, let alone the farmers themselves.
Many of their products are made using plastics
Plastics are the poison of the environment and do not biodegrade. It, therefore, translates that Shein products, when trashed, will not biodegrade as cotton or wool clothes would. They will therefore continue harming the environment, especially when they release carbon dioxide into the environment. It also perpetuates the need to use and rely on fossil fuels.
Their recycling programs are virtually non-existent
Yes, the company argues that they recycle their products. However, their recycling program is trash and does less to impress. The company is not transparent about what is happening to their clothing, how much of it they recycle or resell, or what they are being recycled into. It would not be a wonder finding that they end up being trashed.
They offer low-quality products
Their apparel is cheap, meaning they are low quality. They tear within months of use and end up being trashed. Encouraging such a company to continue its operations means only more harm will befall the planet since they will only end up in landfills.
Is Shein a Sustainable Brand?
Shein is not a sustainable brand at all. They fail to cover the information about many important environmental practices. One is the materials they use. Where brands should opt for organic, natural, or recycled materials, Shein clothing is largely made of virgin synthetics like polyester, which is made from plastic and fossil fuels.
Two is the use of dyes that are toxic to humans and the environment. Thirdly is the use of animal products. They claim not to use leather or fur, yet their products have them. This means they are lying about using animal products, or they make fake leather and fur, from vinyl synthetics, made from plastics.
They also do not recycle water in their production process fifthly, if clothes are made to last, why do their fall apart just after a few years? Finally, all their products are packed in plastic bags. They really have gone a long way to ensure they are not ethical or sustainable.
They have also introduced a recycling program, which rewards participants with gift cards. There are two things with this program; one, it comes up at college pop-up events, and two, it is a form of greenwashing when the fast-fashion company implements it without other real sustainability measures. It is therefore an act of alleviating guilt for overconsumption.
After all, if your clothes are ‘recycled’, you can just buy some more, right? The company is also not transparent about what is happening to their clothing. How much of it is recycled or resold? What is it being recycled into? It would not be a wonder finding that they end up being trashed.
Also, what do you think of when someone mentions ‘fast foods’ to you? High levels of obesity, right? Shein is a ‘fast fashion’ and anything labeled ‘fast’ must have an underlying problem, despite them satisfying an urgent need.
The problem is that these fast clothes tear up quite easily and end up being thrown away, filling landfills. We have also identified that they are made from synthetic materials, which are not recyclable, biodegradable or compostable.
They are therefore wasteful wardrobe trends and especially when one is produced so cheaply, it means ultimately that item will end up in the landfill, and quickly. Also, given their low prices, where is the quality?
Even if they are labeled as “classic” or “timeless”, the clothes will fall apart as they are not made to last, and end up in landfills. Honestly, where is the logic in buying a little black dress for $10 and having it fall apart in two months and in the trash?
Is Shein Cruelty-Free?
No, Shein is not cruelty-free. They are a hurtful brand and their hurt is subjected to the farmers, customers, their workers and the environment in general. First, they offer no information regarding its Animal Welfare Policy on its website and it provides no information about whether it traces any animal products to the first stage of production.
Secondly, there is no evidence that the brand has taken meaningful actions to reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals. In fact, the more they produce, the more chemicals will be used by farmers to grow more products that will aid in the manufacture of their worthless apparel.
More chemicals mean more cancers, tumors and deaths on the farmers, and also poisons the soil and nearby bodies of water. Shein uses very few eco-friendly materials, meaning they are an enemy of the environment.
Thirdly, there is no evidence the brand reduces its carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions in its supply chain. There is no evidence it has a policy to minimize the impacts of microplastics. Oh, what a harsh company!
Fourthly, their labor ratings are very poor and there is no evidence it has worker empowerment initiatives such as collective bargaining or rights to make a complaint.
They source their final stage of production from countries with extreme risk of labor abuse and there is no evidence the brand ensures payment of a living wage in their supply chain. They audit some of their supply chains but do not specify what percentage.
Further, Shein does not disclose any policies or safeguards to protect suppliers and workers in its supply chain from the impacts of COVID-19. Simply put, they are a cruel company and should be avoided totally.