Angeli Mehta reports on how collaborative platforms such as the Partnership for Cleaner Textile are pushing for improvements in one of the world’s most polluting industries
The textile industry is one of the world’s biggest consumers of water, with the washing, dyeing and finishing processes all using copious amounts – not to mention the high water requirements of cotton, a crop that is twice as thirsty as major food crops such as rice, according to PwC.
The industry is also a huge polluter, with textile treatments and dyeing responsible for 20% of all freshwater pollution globally. In the watershed area of Dhaka in Bangladesh, for example, industrial pollution accounts for 60% of water pollution – with textiles the second largest contributor after tanneries. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) estimates that in 2017 more than 700 washing, finishing and dyeing factories were discharging 200,000 litres of wastewater per tonne of fabric.
Western fashion brands are beginning to see how they can have an impact on water use and pollution. Collaborative approaches are being developed with the likes of WWF in China and Turkey, and the International Finance Corporation and NGO Solidaridad in Bangladesh, bringing together brands, factories and finance to kickstart cleaner production.
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