“The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world …”. “It’s a really nasty business … it’s a mess.”
When we think of pollution, we envision coal power plants, strip-mined mountaintops and raw sewage piped into our waterways. We don’t often think of the shirts on our backs. But the overall impact the apparel industry has on our planet is quite grim. Clothes should be designed to last longer, be worn more and be easily rented or recycled, while brands should explore new materials to ensure clothing can biodegrade without releasing toxins and pollution.
“What really excites me about ‘A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion’s future’ is that it provides solutions to an industry that is incredibly wasteful and harmful to the environment,” commented McCartney.
A current trend in fashion retail is creating an extreme demand for quick and cheap clothes and it is a huge problem. Your clothes continue to impact the environment after purchase; washing and final disposal when you’re finished with your shirt may cause more harm to the planet than you realize.
Cotton is the world’s most commonly used natural fiber and is in nearly 40 percent of our clothing. It has a clean, wholesome image long cultivated by the garment industry. Some genetically modified varieties, which are resistant to some insects and tolerant of some herbicides, now make up more than 20 percent of the world’s cotton crop. Cotton is indeed grown all over the world with China being the largest cotton grower followed by India, the U.S., Pakistan, and Brazil. Uzbekistan, the world’s sixth leading producer of cotton, is a prime example of how cotton can severely impact a region’s environment. While Uzbekistan is an extreme example of how cotton farming can wreak havoc on the environment, the impact of cotton agriculture is felt in other regions, including Pakistan’s Indus River, Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin and the Rio Grande in the U.S. and Mexico.
Dying of clothes prove to be a much greater havoc to the environment than that of cultivating cotton. After converting them to the finished product they may still be dyed with chemicals and shipped globally. Dyes are creating a chemical Fukushima in Indonesia Altogether, more than a half trillion gallons of fresh water are used in the dying of textiles each year. The dye wastewater is discharged, often untreated, into nearby rivers, where it reaches the sea, eventually spreading around the globe. China, according to Yale Environment 360, discharges roughly 40 percent of these chemicals. Dying proves to be fatal for aquatic life as well as that of to the human and wildlife.
Clothes made from petrochemicals, polyester, and nylon are not biodegradable, and so they are unsustainable by their very nature. While manufacturing any of the cloth made of these emit a high amount of harmful rays emits a large amount of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas. It’s estimated that it takes about 70 million barrels of oil just to produce the virgin polyester used in fabrics each year. But recycled polyester made from discarded plastic polymer products is now being considered as a greener option; as it takes less than half the energy to produce and helps keep plastic products, like drinking bottles, out of landfills.
Some top clothing designers, such as Fisher, Stella McCartney, and Ralph Lauren are on the leading edge toward reforming the fashion industry. Eileen Fisher’s eponymous company is already using 84 percent organic cotton, 68 percent organic linen and is reducing water use and carbon emissions and working to make its supply chain sustainable by 2020. Industry leaders including Core Partners H&M, Lenzing, and NIKE Inc., and C&A Foundation as Philanthropic Funder have already endorsed the new vision.
“The report presents a roadmap for us to create better businesses and a better environment. It opens up the conversation that will allow us to find a way to work together to better our industry, for the future of fashion and for the future of the planet.”
The sustainability activists said finding new ways to scale better technologies and solutions, and exploring new business models are needed to create a new textiles economy, as well as an unprecedented depth of collaboration across the industry.
Get to know what’s fresh in the industry from Kakcho app
The latest fashion updates