The Complexity of Cloth: Fixin’ Fabrication

Cotton, polyester and silk. Durable, cheap, luxurious, built on the backs of slaves and dyes, leading to toxic wastewater.

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Clothes are inevitable.

The textile journey from fibre to fabric is one paved with controversy and pollution. An integral part of human advancement, the adoption of clothes makes textile a significant portion of daily human consumption.

Regardless of the fibre, the conception and growth of mass-market clothes, industrialisation and human expansion have led to unethical, unsustainable methods in textile production. With longer life expectancies and healthier numbers in birth rates, I don’t foresee a change in consumption habits. In fact, these numbers are expected to multiply. By 2030, the industry is expected to grow by 81%. Creating with its growth, waste and damage that would have a dire impact on societies, environments and our planet. Fabric manufacturing is the primary contributor to the way fashion harms the environment.

There will still be high production rates and excessive production based on current business models. I’m not sure how ready businesses are to make and sell less. The availability of cheaper clothing solutions such as H&M and Primark make sustainable products a luxury for those in the lower-middle-income groups. In fact, while more consumers opt for sustainable options, it is still deemed a niche market.

If habits and how we consume aren’t going to change; people don’t want to buy less, companies don’t intend to sell less. What does?

Not so fun facts

  1. Chemically dyeing fibres and fabrics not only use a lot of water but also lead to non-reusable toxic water waste. The textile industry contributes to 15%-20% of global water pollution1.
  2. Bamboo made products are not always eco-friendly. Bamboo is processed and made into rayon fibres. But this toxic chemical process of achieving rayon has high outputs of hazardous air pollutants2.
  3. Textile production produces 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) per year, more emissions than international flights and maritime shipping combined3.
  4. Textile production from fibre to fabric uses 93 billion cubic metres of water annually.
  5. The textile industry relies on mostly non-renewable resources.

The furniture of the mind made visible.

Clothes are inevitable. They are nothing less than the furniture of the mind made visible.

James Laver

While it might seem like I am demonising fashion, it is in fact just my guilt for my love of it. It is very sobering when you learn that something you hold so dear comes at the expense of the livelihoods of people and the world.

James Laver’s quote is true that part of the externalisation of ourselves comes in part from our clothes. In that same breath, it is worrying that if my clothes communicate my mind, then what am I trying to say if I wear clothes that were at the expense of someone else’s home and the world I live in.

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Developments in Textile Production

  1. United Nations (UN) has set out 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The fashion industry is implicated in many of the SDGs and are called upon to address these issues.
  2. Lucyna Bilińskaa, Kazimierz Blusa, Marta Gmurekb, and Stanisław Ledakowiczb, found that using electrocoagulation and ozone treatment allowed the reuse of textile wastewater.
    This finding allows for the possible reduction of wastewater dumping and the recycling of that wastewater.
  3. H. El Boujaady, A. EL Bakri, M. Mourabet, A. EL Rhilassi, M. Bennani-Ziatni, R. El Hamri and A. Taitai found that Morrocan Phosphate Rock was able to remove certain dyes from wastewater. The removal of dyes from wastewater lessens how harmful it is to the environment. is constantly sending me new studies and papers on textile fabrication. This is good. Companies are looking for solutions and I’m glad to see that there are options for adoption.

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