Environmental Impact of Textile Waste

Monday, April 1, 2019

When you consider environmental pollution, you may immediately think about animal agriculture or the transportation industry. When you look at the clothes and accessories in your cupboard, you probably don’t associate them with greenhouse gas emissions, harmful freshwater depletion and large-scale environmental contamination  – but these are inherent problems with industry that still uses antiquated manufacturing processes.

 

Greenhouse Gasses

Research shows that textile industries are responsible for around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Coal and natural gas are typically used for powering the textile factories, which require energy intensive processes to deliver the currently required process transformations such as washing and drying. A change to more renewable energy sources must be a legislative focus; which can only be enabled by new manufacturing technologies.

Water Consumption

Up to 200 litres of water are required to produce 1 kg of textiles. Freshwater is typically withdrawn from surface or groundwater sources for dyeing, wet processing and other uses within the textile industry. Freshwater is consumed faster than it can be replenished – this could be disastrous for human health and sustainability of communities in textile producing areas as our water needs continue to increase.

Environmental Contamination

The textile industry is contaminating the environment at an alarming rate, driven by rising living standards and the emergence of “fast fashion” the trend for short lifetime clothing, the industry is responsible for wide ranging chemical emissions; many of which damage the environment. From plastic microparticulate to landfill waste there is an urgent need for new approaches to tackle the environmental strain that the global textile industry places across the world.

An Alternative Solution

The environmental impact of the textile industry is a multi-faceted problem. Reducing fossil fuel dependency and rethinking consumption models is essential for the long-term. One improvement that can be made immediately is the move to emerging lower impact manufacturing processes that reduce energy, water consumption and environmental emissions.