As consumers buy more and more clothes, the fast fashion industry has flourished, mass-producing trendy clothing using cheap, exploitative labor, and environmentally-harmful processes.
By producing apparel and garments, massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions enter the atmosphere, water sources are depleted, and carcinogenic chemicals, dyes, salts, and heavy metals are dumped into waterways.
The fashion industry produces 20 percent of global wastewater and 10 percent of global carbon emissions which is more than all international flights and maritime shipping,the UNEP reports.Each step of making clothes carries a significant environmental burden.
1. Textile Dyeing & Water Contamination
Processes like bleaching, softening, or making the garment water-resistant or anti-wrinkle require various chemicals and treatments to be applied to fabric, CNN explains.
But textile dyeing is the biggest offender in the fashion industry and is the second-largest polluter of water globally according to the UNEP.
Dyeing clothes to get vivid colors and finishes that are common in the fast fashion industry require large amounts of water and chemicals, which end up being dumped in nearby rivers and lakes.
The World Bank has identified 72 toxic chemicals that end up in waterways from textile dyeing. Wastewater disposal is rarely regulated or monitored, meaning fashion brands and factory owners are left unaccountable. Water contamination destroys the local environments of garment-producing nations like Bangladesh. Bangladesh is the world’s second-biggest garment exporter with apparel reaching thousands of stores across the United States and Europe. But the country’s waterways have been polluted for years by garment operations, textile mills, and dyeing plants.