Clothing industry is currently the second largest polluter in the world, leaving only the oil industry in the first place. It is easy not to think about how our supposedly innocent shopping habits harm the environment.

Textile industry cause pollution not only by the production and processing of raw materials, but also from transporting garments to consumers, as well as the fact that most clothes end up in landfills after they have been deemed unusable.

It is trendy to opt for of natural cotton, however, the production of it is by no means innocent, as the producers tend to grow it as quickly as possible using an enormous amount of water and pesticides which lets them sell it at an affordable price. The World Wide Fund for Nature’s calculations in the study show that it can take up to 20,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of cotton, which is necessary to produce one T-shirt or a pair of jeans. Producers harvest up to 20 million tons of cotton annually in more than 90 countries around the world, 75% of which is produced in China, the United States, India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Turkey. Up to 35% of all pesticides and insecticides in the world are used just to produce cotton.

Residents along Tullahan river have noted a multi-coloured effluent in the river water, rocks and banks.. © Gigie Cruz-Sy / Greenpeace

Shockingly, it’s estimated that around 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used to turn raw materials into textiles and 20% of the world’s industrial water pollution come from fashion’s textile-dyeing and treatment processes.

In June of last year, a report by Changing Markets highlighted viscose production’s pollution problem. Villages downstream from factories that supplied fast-fashion retailers teetered on the banks of rotting black rivers, streaked through with red and thick with foam.

Just like cotton viscose is derived from plant-based fibres, it’s often celebrated as a ‘green’ option, but the reality is that its production is highly reliant on chemicals. Hydrogen sulphide, sodium hydroxide, and carbon disulphide cause an array of health issues, from skin burns and paranoia to birth defects and kidney disease, yet they’re all used to treat the pulp during production. Poorly treated or untreated wastewater loaded with these chemicals was being released into waterways, leaving locals without access to drinking water and suffering from a sweeping list of health complaints.

Shot on location in the heart of China’s textile industry © Lance Lee / Greenpeace

Prolong the life of clothes, linens, towels, and fabrics through recycling, re-dyeing and restructuring can minimize the overall need to produce fabric and textile, which ultimately reduces the industry’s impact to the environment. Pollution has placed the globe on a hot seat. If this issue is not handled in a proper way, and if no steps are taken, we are headed for a doom, and that is certain.

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