There have been many reports recently looking into the environmental harm that the fashion industry is responsible for. To the average person on the street, the thought that fashion could damage the environment might seem bizarre. We buy clothes, we wear them, we give them to charity or throw them away, where’s the harm in that? Well, let’s start from the very beginning…
The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world, second only to oil. In total, the world consumes 80 billion new pieces of clothing each year – that’s more than ten times the amount of people on the planet. Each household is said to spend roughly £1,700 on clothes each year. The biggest demand for clothing is for ‘fast fashion’, cheaply made clothing from overseas shipped to the UK, sold for a very reasonable price and probably discarded as ‘unfashionable’ by the next time the season rolls round. Before the clothing arrives on the shelves, most of the environmental harm is done.
1. Cotton is one of the most pesticide intense crops in the world, in fact the production of cotton is responsible for 18% of worldwide pesticide and 25% of total insecticide use.
2. The dying process is seriously harming our waterways, which is impacting both animals and human life. The River Citarum in Indonesia supports more than 30 million residents who rely on the water source, the pollution from the industrial facilities producing textiles is said to have adverse effects on 5 million people and wildlife living in the river basin.
3. During the production process hazardous chemicals are emitted. In fact, around 8,000 chemicals are used in various textile manufacturing processes and many of these contain metal which can be slow to biodegrade.
4. The energy consumption of the textile factories is phenomenal, all the while emitting harmful co2 emissions. It is estimated that 1 tonne of spun polyester requires 29,000-35,000 kWh of energy. For perspective, 1kWh of electricity enables you to watch TV for 7 hours or boil ten kettles for two minutes. Water is also one of the most needed sources when making clothes, afterwards water effluent from these factories is toxic, which makes its way into waterways.
5. Once all of these clothes have been made, they then have to be shipped across the world in large container ships that use masses of oil and expel harmful emissions into the atmosphere.
In our next blog, we’re going to be looking at what we can do to help and minimise our own fashion footprint and encourage others to as well!