- The expansion of textile production and consumption has contributed to increasing pollution, water shortages, fossil fuel and raw material depletion, and climate change.
- Production of polyester fibre, the most widely used man-made fibre, consumes non-renewable resources and high energy levels, and generates atmospheric emissions.
- Modern automated textile plants consume large amounts of energy.
Textile finishing consumes large amounts of water and energy and often produces harmful effluent.
- Apparel production is more environmentally friendly, but sourcing from low cost countries consumes more fuel for transportation.
- Among consumers, the trend towards fast fashion and cheaper clothing has led to a throw-away mentality.
- Although recycling activity remains at a low level—for economic and quality reasons—Marks & Spencer and others are promoting recycling schemes.
Some retailers are also voluntarily attaching “eco-labels” to garments to provide environmental information.
Although these have met with varying levels of success in the marketplace, they can encourage “best practice” in manufacturing.
- Some labelling schemes, such as the EU Ecolabel Scheme and its associated flower logo, adopt a full life cycle or “cradle to grave” approach while others, such as Öko-Tex, focus on a single aspect of an item such as its environmental attributes, social attributes, or individual phases of its life cycle.
- Other initiatives include REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) legislation which aims to encourage safe and eco-friendly chemical production.
- In the USA the Toxic Substances Control Act (TCSA) enables the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to track industrial chemicals produced in or imported into the country.
- Some man-made fibres, such as Lenzing’s lyocell fibre Tencel, have a minimal impact on the environment.
- Also, organic cotton production is growing rapidly but still accounts for only a small fraction of global cotton output.
- And a growing number of brand and manufacturing companies are pursuing environmentally friendly strategies.
Such companies include American Apparel, Gap, Interface, Patagonia, and Wal-Mart in the USA as well as Rohner Textil in Switzerland, and a small knitwear company in India, MaHan, which was founded by an exteacher from the Netherlands.
- Environmental issues arise at all stages of the textile and apparel supply chain.
- Environmental issues are being addressed, however.
Nonetheless, organic cotton is being adopted by high profile companies such as C&A, Coop, Nike, Wal-Mart, and Woolworths.
Textiles Intelligence (U.K.)
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