Talk about pollution , we start blaming crude oil, coal plants, mining activities, sewage and what not. Marathons are run to create awareness to “ Save Environment “ with attractive T shirts. Have we ever thought of the shirts on our back ? Fashion is very fast industry. The apparel Market which is worth 50K million USD in India is expected to grow 75K million USD in 2022. Sounds Good ! So here comes the fact ; “The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world … second only to oil,” the recipient of an environmental award Eileen Fisher told, “It’s a really nasty business … it’s a mess.”
While the statement can be challenged on figures but one can not deny the carbon footprints it leaves behind. Again determining the footprint is a big challenge. It starts with obvious pollutants – the pesticides used in cotton farming, the toxic dies used in manufacturing and most important and ignored part is the waste that discarded clothing creates. Do we think of enormous amount of natural resources used in production, extraction, farming, processing, manufacturing and transporting? Thirst to be in line with the current trends in fashion is creating an extreme demand for quick and cheap clothes and it is a huge problem. Shopping has become the way of life or weekly pastime and more dangerously an addiction too. Shopping malls, mass advertisements, is leading to disposable clothing and is a cause for great concern.
So, cotton looks to be a “ Green Choice “, however it consumes 2700 litres of water to make one T Shirt ! While synthetic fibres have issues with manufacturing pollution and sustainability. Manufacturing and dying of fabrics is chemically intensive. Polyester and nylon are not biodegradable and emit large amount of greenhouse gases during manufacturing. While all the hue and cry is made against the plastic, very little is talked about textiles !
The main types of chemicals calling attention for in clothing industries are alkylphenol etheoxylates (APEOs), phthalates and PFCs. Many companies have set “acceptable limits” on APEOs, but because these harmful chemicals accumulate in nature, limits don’t fix the problem. Phthalates, used particularly in plastic printed images like those on printed T-shirts, have been linked to all sorts of health problems like asthma and lowered IQ. PFCs are used in stain-resistant clothing may cause thyroid damage. While very few are making efforts of going green , majority of manufacturers are turning a deaf ear.
Your clothes continue to harm the planet right from its manufacturing till you dispose it off, more than you realise. The only ray of hope is turning back to organic cotton, organic linen, reducing water use and carbon emissions. The real change will require huge force as fashion has become the statement. While we the consumers can also contribute to it by not falling pray to disposable clothing and change to sustainable clothing.