‘Planet Over Profit’: youth activists protest against fast fashion in Truro

Protestors gathering in Lemon Quay, Truro | Jory Mundy

Around 20 youth protesters gathered in Truro on Saturday to protest against the fast fashion industry, its treatment of workers, and the lack of awareness of its contribution to the climate crisis.

The action, organised by Cornwall Youth Climate Alliance (CYCA), aimed to promote the dangers of fast and cheap fashion on the climate and on the workers who produce it. They targeted brands in Truro such as New Look, Sports Direct, and Primark, which are known for their cheap brands, and also discussed online stores such as Boohoo, Zara, Urban Outfitters, and more. CYCA sat outside of the Truro stores, handed out leaflets, held speeches, and wrote chalk messages such as “pay your workers” on the pavement.

Protestors gathering in Lemon Quay, Truro | Jory Mundy

The group discussed the impact that fast fashion has on the climate crisis and how the industry needs to change to support the planet over profits.

CYCA suggested serval issues with the industry’s damage to the planet, with one being its water consumption: “The fashion industry alone consumes one 10th of all of the water used industrially to run factories and clean products. To put this into perspective, it takes 10,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of cotton.” When the clothes are dyed, these dyeing chemicals in the wastewater are added back into the ocean, creating pollution and damaging the ecosystem.

CYCA went on to discuss the microfibers in cheap clothes, which can damage ecosystems when broken down and the general issue of waste, with out-of-style clothes being discarded and 57% going to landfills and becoming dangerous to the planet when incinerated.

Other speakers discussed the dangers of fast fashion on workers in areas such as East Asia, working long and often dangerous jobs with minimal pay to produce cheap clothes for Western brands. An example given was the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh. On 24 April 2013, an eight-story building containing five clothing factories collapsed, killing around 1,134 workers and injuring thousands more. The disaster left workers crushed under heavy machinery, with others needing amputation or other long-term medical treatment. The world’s media watched in horror as bodies were recovered over 17 days, but no major change occurred in the fashion industry, with 29 global brands eventually linked to the factories’ orders.

The group also spoke out against the pay of these workers, especially in foreign countries. One protester said that the industry turned over $3 trillion a year, yet most of the workers (mostly women) work for poverty pay (some at $21 a month), in long, exploitative shifts, with little access to paid leave or healthcare.

A sign belonging to a protestor | Jory Mundy

One speaker, Lana, discussed becoming more sustainable in everyday life as a solution to both issues. She recommended avoiding buying “excessive amounts of clothing” if not required, to “borrow clothes, buy them second hand” from friends or charity shops, and to “turn old clothes into tea towels or sew up rip-ups” into new clothes. She concluded that fast fashion “companies can only sell as quickly as we buy, so as we remain materialistic shopping machines, we face the consequences of our actions.”

Protestors gathering in Lemon Quay, Truro | Jory Mundy

The action ended outside of Primark, with chants and further speeches.

The protest was well-received by the general public, with several people stopping and showing their support. The protest was peaceful, and the only things left by the group were chalk messages on roads and paths.