Facts about the Textile industry and Sustainability

I don’t think we have to get to the point of wearing the leaves of the trees in order to keep our bodies warm and protected, but it might be necessary to understand what we are buying and think twice before buying some brands. It...

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I don’t think we have to get to the point of wearing the leaves of the trees in order to keep our bodies warm and protected, but it might be necessary to understand what we are buying and think twice before buying some brands. It would be great to have some background information when deciding what to wear and how to manage our everyday products.

Few days ago, I watched a video that impacted me a lot, it was about how beauty products are tested on animals. I knew that big beauty companies were testing on animals but have you actually seen how they tested? What is the procedure? It is terrifying!

Despite the main point here is about textiles, I couldn’t leave this info and image out of this article and our minds. Also, there are several chemicals, which are tested on animals, and some of them used by us on our babies that legally couldn’t be tested on children before its approval and commercialisation, so, we actually don’t know their real effects on them and ourselves. This’s also terrifying!

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But let’s get back to the subject, the Retail Forum for sustainability in 2013 published a paper about the environmental aspects of textiles. I wanted to analyse it in 3 groups of different facts based on the concept of sustainability and some shocking statistics from the organisation Tree Huggers and British Fashion Council:

First group – Economic:

  • The textile industry is the world’s oldest branch of consumer goods manufacturing
  • The world clothing and textile industry (clothing, textiles, footwear and luxury goods) reached almost $2,560 trillion in 2010.
  • The direct value of the UK fashion industry to the UK economy is £26 billion; up from £21 billion in 2009. Showing an increase of 22% in nominal terms
  • The Chinese textile industry creates about 3 billion tons of soot each year.
  • Millions of tons of unused fabric at Chinese mills go to waste each year when dyed the wrong colour.
  • In 2010, the textile industry ranked third for overall in Chinese industry for wastewater discharge amount at 5 billion tons of wastewater per year.

Second group – Environmental:

  • Clothing alone is responsible for 2 to 10 % of the EU’s lifecycle environmental impacts. This results in textiles coming fourth in the ranking of product category, which cause the greatest environmental impact, just after food & drinks, transport and housing.

Energy use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, nutrients releases (leading to eutrophication) and ecotoxicity from washing (water heating and detergents) and dying of textiles are some of the consequences of the textile industry. But how?:

  • Energy use, resource depletion and GHG emissions from processing fossil fuels into synthetic fibres, e.g. polyester or nylon;
  • Significant water use, toxicity from fertiliser, pesticide and herbicide use, energy use and GHG emissions associated with fertiliser generation and irrigation systems related to production of fibre crops, e.g. cotton;
  • Water use, toxicity, hazardous waste and effluent associated with the production stage, including pre-treatment chemicals, dyes and finishes.

Third group – Social:

  • EU legislation addresses the issues of imports from low-wage countries. Most of the time these countries, such as China and India, do not follow standards for the chemical analysis of textile fibres and treatments.
  • By improving their environmental and social performances, brands can improve their reputation.

So, we could demand from big corporations sustainable clothing by understanding labels and buying consciously.

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Read more at:

European Commission

Tree hugger

British Fashion Council

Images Credit:

Ecouterre

Funnyjunk

 

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