Because most fabric manufacturing factories are located in developing countries, the regulations surrounding environmental protection are almost non-existent. Furthermore, the penalties for breaching these regulations are softer than a slap on the wrist. There isn't much incentive for companies to act in an environmentally ethical manner.
An example of this can be found in Kampar, which is India's largest tannery city. Tanneries are places where animal skins are processed into leather. The by-products from tanning are then dumped into some of the city's potable water supply.
There are over 50 million litres of toxic water poured into Kampar's water supply on a daily basis. This includes water that is polluted by the chemical "Chromium 6", which is extremely toxic! And so the cycle begins.
As it is their only source of water, the citizens of Kampar drink the water that is polluted with Chromium 6. This can make them very sick! The citizens must purchase medication in order to recover from their illnesses; however medication costs money, and most of these citizens earn their living working at the tanneries that are responsible for polluting their water source. The cycle is a loss for humans, who simply become capital for corporations.
People work to make money under a pretence that they are going to create a better future for themselves. In the process, the companies they are working for are directly responsible for polluting their water supply, which forces them to spend their earnings on medication to protect themselves and their families.
Here are some water facts for you to enjoy so you can see where we believe opportunities for improvement exist:
1. The fashion industry contributes to 20% of the world's water pollution. This number can be reduced and we will drive better practices to ensure this happens.
2. There are more than 2,000 different chemicals released into fresh water each year.
3. If we washed our clothes in cold water instead of hot water, even with every four out of five washes, we could cut 32.5kgs of carbon dioxide emissions each month.
There are 80 billion pieces of new clothing made each year - that is a 400% increase over the past two decades.
In 2015 the fashion industry will produce around 400 billion metres of fabric just for apparel. Of this, 15% (60 billion) metres will be wasted during the production phase.
Australia alone will dispose of 1 million metric tons of fibre to landfill, which can take up to 200 years to biodegrade.
Now for our customers that really appreciate numbers, there is further food for thought below.
In 2011, around 24.942 trillion metric tonnes of cotton was produced. Let's conservatively assume that this number hasn't grown in the last 4 years and that, as predicted above, 15% of this is wasted. That means that about 3.74 trillion metric tonnes of cotton will be wasted. In one year. This will then take up to 200 years to biodegrade.
There are other factors to consider related to the production of this waste. Think about this:
1. 1 Mega litre (1 million litres) of water is required to produce 1.9 bales of cotton
2. 1 bale of cotton weights about 500 pounds
3. 1 metric ton is about 2205 pounds
Based on these figures, we have deduced a very shocking statistic.
8.68 billion Giga litres (8,680,000,000,000,000,000 litres) of water will be wasted across the world in 2015 from the production of fabric!
In Australia alone, 2,320 Giga litres of water will find its way to landfill as a result of clothing items disposed after purchase. We can think of some farmers who wouldn't mind access to that much water.
Chemicals affect humans and the land alike. For the agricultural arm tied to the fashion industry, there is a heavy dependence on pesticides and insecticides to keep crops from being killed by pests and insects. As Vandana Shiva says, "[These] chemicals are ecological narcotics, the more you use them the more you will need to use them." We think Vandana gives a pretty accurate summary to a very confronting problem.
Did you know that 10% of the total pesticide use and nearly 25% of the total insecticides used worldwide is derived from applications related to cotton farming? The use of these chemicals is concentrated to a select number of countries.
As an example, in Punjab India, which is India's largest grower of cotton and largest user of pesticides, there has been a dramatic rise in the amount of birth defects, cancer and mental illness in the region. 70 to 80 kids in every village have severe mental retardation and physical handicaps.
Impacts on soil and farmers from pesticides and insecticide sprays are still not quantified and, while there is no smoking gun, the companies that produce these chemicals refuse to admit that the handicaps described above are due to excessive exposure to their products. This is regardless of other correlating data that suggests otherwise.
Therefore, our aim at Indecisive is to turn to materials that eliminate the use of chemicals at the plant or crop farming stage.