Processing of fabrics

Raw materials have to be processed into textiles that are ready to be made into clothing and an estimated 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used globally in this process. The washing, dying, printing and bleaching of materials are water, energy and chemical intensive. It is estimated┬áthat 17-20% of the world’s industrial water pollution comes from the treatment and dying of textiles. A single mill can use 200 tons of fresh water per ton of dyed fabric and every year, manufacturers discharge millions of gallons of chemically polluted water into freshwater sources. China (produces 53% of the worlds textiles), for example, discharges 40% of the worlds chemical dyes, most of which are left untreated. We can see that its not just the high consumption of water but also the release of chemicals into the environment. The damage can be observed in countries where textile producers are concentrated. For example, the Citarum river in Indonesia is one of the most polluted rivers in the world. Thanks to the hundreds of textile factories surrounding it, the river now contains lead, mercury, arsenic and a bevy of other toxins. These factories freely dump their chemicals into the river, giving harm to the people living at the river basin and also the aquatic wildlife. The water is also high in alkalinity and has been claimed to burn human skin and is deadly┬áto the fishes. On top of destroying local ecosystems, these chemicals also stay on the clothes that we buy and can affect our health. Greenpeace found harmful chemicals and toxins on all of the items of clothing they surveyed.