The textile industry’s contribution to the mass environmental crisis facing our planet as of 2020 is multi-faceted; there is, however, one specific factor that often slips under the radar – water consumption.
The thousands upon thousands of business companies within the textile industry all contribute to a huge amount of water usage for the creation of fibre, fabric and the final garment production. Processes – such as bleaching, dyeing and printing – leading to a global consumption of over 80 billion cubic metres of water per year.
It has been found that it takes more than 2,700 litres of water to produce a singular cotton t-shirt. This is equivalent to the same amount of water a single person drinks over a period of two and a half years.
A textile mill today has the ability to produce roughly 5,000 shirts a day – even more in larger factories – leading to an astronomical water requirement.
The issue has only been accelerated by fashion trends changing quicker than ever, lower prices and the automation involved in producing clothes at a much, much faster rate.
The consumer today is purchasing more items of clothing than ever before and retaining them for a much shorter time period before throwing them out.
This leads to even more complications. Wastewater from textile manufacturing processes contains salts, chemicals, dyes and solvents which can be deadly to the environment and cause many complications.
Water treatment systems cannot manage the complexity of this kind of waste water, which often leads to fouling or scaling and can render the system inoperable. This can then lead to ineffective treatment, with contaminants left in the water which is then discharged into rivers, lakes and oceans. This causes damage not only to the environment, but to humanity, with long-lasting health effects.
The battle at present comes as the textile industry faces the challenge of meeting consumer needs whilst abiding by environmental law. With stringent regulations applied to the textile industry, governments are acting to try and curtail the issue.
The Asia-Pacific region accounts for over half of the global textile industry, driven mainly by India and China, who represent the largest cotton producers and exporters in the world.
New standards for wastewater treatment and discharge have been put in place by regulatory authorities in an attempt to decrease the harmful impact.
With consumers slowly beginning to seek out more sustainable fashion, as growing awareness and environmental activism increases, end buyers of the professional clothing industry are beginning to increase the pressure they place on clothing brands.
Companies across the globe are beginning to seek out more sustainable practises, with adopting better wastewater treatment technologies.
The initiative and dedication shown by many companies to the creation of a circular economy will help businesses meet the standards laid out for the benefit of the environment. Proper wastewater treatment will become a cost-effective and worthwhile endeavour for businesses who will be able to see it as a long-term investment rather than an extreme business cost.
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