Envrionmental and Social Impact of the Fashion Industry today aka. Why I founded DODO SCHOLZ.
The fashion industry is the industry with the second largest environmental impact after the oil Industry.
23% of all globally related chemicals are used for dyeing and finishing textiles. Consumers do not know about the pollutants used in production – this is not mentioned on the labels. Many textile factories also dispose of untreated chemicals, such as anomaly, chlorobenzene and nonylphenol, into rivers, which are usually discharged unfiltered by the factories, but can later be found in drinking water and are responsible for some of the most polluted rivers in the world. Deposits from toxic chemicals, mainly used to dye substances, have made large parts of the Citarum rivers in Indonesia, the Pearl River in China and many more uninhabitable for fish and other animals. There are repeated reports of vegetables contaminated with heavy metals, as many farmers irrigate their fields with contaminated river water. In addition, many people still depend on rivers as a source of drinking water, direct food or irrigation. In communities close to heavily polluted rivers, a high number of cancers and other serious diseases are detected, especially near water outlets in textile factories.
Worldwide, 256 cubic kilometres of water are needed annually for cotton production. The production of 1 kg of cotton requires an average of around 11,000 litres of water worldwide, which is equivalent to approximately 200 bathtubs full of water. It would take 13 years to drink exactly the amount of water it takes to make a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. Cotton is a plant prone to disease and pests. No other agricultural crop is used with as many plant toxins as cotton. Ninety-nine percent of cotton farmers live in developing countries and produce 75 percent of the world's cotton crop. About 14 percent of the global insecticide market and about 5 percent of the pesticide market are in this area. Farmers lack the necessary safety devices for the use of the chemicals. Thus, the hazardous chemicals are used without gloves and breathing masks and sprayed on the plants without sufficient protection. The empty bottles and barrels are used as drinking vessels and storage for water and food. The necessary filter systems to prevent the chemicals from entering groundwater do not exist. According to international labour organisations, up to five million people die each year from pesticide poisoning. Symptoms of acute pesticide poisoning include dizziness, headache, nausea, unconsciousness, shortness of breath, arrhythmias and convulsions up to death. Even after harvesting, the cotton is further treated with toxic substances - chlorides are used as bleach and plasticizers, which again pollute the environment with every wash. Another problem is the "finishing" of textiles. When sandblasting jeans, fine quartz sand is brought to the surface of the textiles to give them the trendy vintage look. The fine dust, as is known from miners, settles in the lungs of the textile workers and leads to silicosis. Nevertheless, cotton is one of the most important textile raw materials in the world, accounting for 50%.
60 percent of our clothing contains polyester, it's the fuel for fast fashion. Polyester is made from non-renewable petroleum and the CO2 emissions for polyester are almost three times higher than for cotton. For every tonne of polyester, manufacturers emit more than five tonnes of CO2. The fashion industry actually produces more CO2 emissions than international aviation and shipping combined. 10% of global output comes from the fashion industry. However, the production of nylon produces nitrous oxide, which is a greenhouse gas 300 times stronger than carbon dioxide. Factories consume an incredible amount of energy and are therefore major greenhouse gas emitters. It is estimated that 80% of the energy used in the fashion industry is consumed in textile production. Electricity is required for the operation of machines such as sewing machines and air pumps, while large amounts of heat are required for washing, drying and dyeing fabrics. Most of these factories are located in China – and this relies largely on coal for energy production.
In addition, there are the microplastic particles in the sea, 190000 tons of microplastics enter our seas every year. Synthetic microfibers dissolve and end up in rivers and seas. Washing machines and dryers transform the plastic fibres of clothing, made from synthetic materials such as polyester, into micro-plastic which enters our groundwater and thus into our food. Today, up to 72% of our clothing is made from chemical yarns, which has a major impact on the health of animals and people who eat these animals. With a single 6-kilogram wash load of synthetic fabrics, up to 700,000 microfibers can enter the environment. It is estimated that a total of 80 to 400 tons of microparticles are released annually by clothing in Germany.
Also polyester takes up to 200 years to biodegrade, releasing chemicals such as formaldehyde, heavy metals, and other toxins into the environment. In addition, the cheap synthetic blending fibres are often not suitable for resale due to their lack of quality. That means we get stuck, with a mountain of clothes that no one wants to wear anymore, because the latest trend is already online again.
Much of this was due to the phenomenon of the so-called "fast fashion" industry, which has established itself in the 21st century. With cheap products, designs copied from high fashion designers and 52 small collections per year, the customer is never taught to have the latest and still suggests the feeling of wealth, as you can buy several cheap pieces. The sharp increase in the consumption of mainly cheaply produced clothing not only led to major environmental damage, but also to a throwaway society. In 2014, 10.46 million tons of clothing were dumped in U.S. landfills. This means 82 kg of textile waste per American per year.
Clothes are becoming more and more disponible products that you throw away after a season. 85% of clothing ends up in the environment. Only 15% of the textiles are recycled or donated. Evidence of the true extent of this problem is that only about 15-20% of the clothes that are handed over to charity shops each year actually get on the shelves of charity shops. 85% of clothing ends up in the environment. Chemically produced clothing in particular can take up to 200 years to compost, producing methane gas, a greenhouse gas more polluting than carbon dioxide.
The majority of textile traders benefit from the poor environmental protection requirements and human rights protection of the production countries in Asia and Central and South America.
Globalization and global production chains are characterized by competition for markets and investors as well as the orientation towards short-term competitive advantages. The interest of stockholders, for example, in listed sporting goods brands is valued higher than humans and the environment. In doing so, the disregard for fundamental rights and social standards is accepted. Especially within the global clothing and sporting goods industry, where the process of international interdependence has progressed the longest and most far, four core problems have been observed for years: low wages, abuse of short-term contracts and other precarious forms of employment, violations of freedom of association and plant closures due to restructuring.
Violations of labour rights and maladministration as well as their cover-up are common practice in the global suppliers and are still denied by customer companies to this day. For example, the wages of seamstresses in China or Bangladesh are hardly enough to secure a living. Brand companies, discounters and retailers do not consistently take responsibility for the often inhumane working conditions.