How Fashion is creating Health Hazards and environmental pollution

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According to a research by MarketLine in 2015, the textile industry, made up of 83.3 per cent fabric and 16.7 per cent yarn that year, was worth $667.5 billion. Move to the next component of the chain — the clothing itself and the value jumps to $842.7 billion; that was the figure put out for 2016. The total worth of sold apparel based on retail selling price of manufactured clothing in 2015 was $1.25 trillion.

In November 2017, the Ellen McArthur Foundation co-published a research that revealed a staggering rate of wastage in the fashion industry. According to the publication, one garbage or PSP truck of barely worn clothing is thrown away every second. The report states that the value of the discarded clothing is worth $500 billion. That however, is just 2.5 per cent of MarketLine’s estimate for retailed apparel. The story does not end at the wastage. The glitz and glamour of wearing only what is trending, leads to half a million tons of micro fiber getting dumped in the ocean. Experts say the mini plastics are difficult or near impossible to clean and they actually find their way into the food chain. But, that is only a tiny arc of the picture. Sustainable fashion is not a concept a lot of designers are familiar with. One stat says cotton makes up 55 per cent of all fabrics produced worldwide. The other percentage is shared by rayon and polyester. Linen, silk and wool also have some market share. These three sources of textile are quite expensive and not as cheap as the first three.

The Process

Producing cotton is very intensive. Growing the plant conventionally relies heavily on the use of agro-chemicals. Nine to 11 per cent of the globe’s pesticides are spent to cultivate cotton. In order to control the impact of insects on the plant, 20 to 24 per cent of the world’s insecticides are sprayed on the farmland. In the farming of the plant, an estimated eight per cent of the synthetic fertilizers produced globally is also engaged. All of these, just to farm 2.5 hectares of cotton. One more… It takes 20,000 litres of water to produce enough cotton for a t-shirt and a pair of your favourite jeans. That’s what a research by US fashion company Zady states. As such, farming cotton the conventional way is sometimes not beneficial for the farmers.

Switch over to rayon and here is what you will find. This substance was developed as an alternative to unaffordable silk. At its early adoption stage, people referred to it as artificial silk before the name rayon was coined. The fabric is sourced from wood pulp and refined into three types of textile. Statistics estimate the amount of trees it takes to produce rayon (a fixture in lots of clothing) annually, at over 70 million. This is the same litre of oil needed to produce polyester and other synthetic fiber every year.The report of the impact the production and transformation of these materials into fabrics and into clothing are having on the eco system we depend on, has been making booming sounds in Nigeria. The estimated volume of carbon monoxide emitted by the textile industry is 1.2 billion tonnes every year.

To understand it better, that is more fume than the maritime and aviation industries released into the atmosphere and hydrosphere. When these eco bodies are disturbed, the shrill of their anger brings disaster.


Fashion designers can take a cue from their counterparts like Mara Hoffman, Maxine Bedet and Vanessa Rothschild, who got together under the banner of EcoSessions to discuss what impact fashion, is having on the warming of the globe. At that gathering, they came to the resolve that sources of raw materials for making fabric was the chief pollutant in the cloth making industry. Huffman said her brand had begun to use recycled nylon for manufacturing swim wears since 2015. Rothschild, who is the Sustainable Business Controller of H&M, said her firm will begin using only recycled and sustainable materials by 2030.

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