The production of clothes involves numerous “wet processes” which use a considerable amount of water and chemical substances. Polluted water from those processes should be treated before being released into nature. However, water treatment has a cost, and in most production countries chosen for their low cost, untreated toxic wastewater from textile factories is dumped directly into the rivers.
Also, most of the wastewater treatments currently available are designed for other wastes and are not 100% efficient for textile effluents. Textile effluents are very complex because of the variety of dyes, additives, etc, and it is constantly changing from one season to another.
Textile wastewater contains toxic substances such as lead, mercury, and arsenic, among others. These are extremely harmful to aquatic life and the health of millions of people living by those river banks. The contamination also reaches the sea and eventually spreads around the globe.
It is estimated that around 20% of industrial water pollution comes from textiles treatment or dyes and that 200,000 tons of dyes are lost to effluents every year.
Another major source of water contamination is the use of fertilizers for cotton production, which heavily pollutes runoff waters and evaporation waters.
Additionally, every time we wash a synthetic garment (polyester, nylon, etc), about 1,900 individual microfibers are released into the water, making their way into our oceans. Scientists have discovered that small aquatic organisms ingest those microfibers. These are then eaten by small fish which are later eaten by bigger fish, introducing plastic into our food chain.
Copy Partner: Sustain Your Style e.V.; Photo: The True Cost
Other sources: The Guardian;