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The textile industry’s impact on water

Fast fashion’s impact on the environment has been a topic of discussion for some time, and little by little certain consumer groups are stepping up, but there is still a great deal to be done.  The dark underbelly of textile production is mostly associated with the exploitation of labour, in most cases, children and women. Although many of the countries involved in clothing manufacture have made timid attempts to legislate on labour issues, other related negative impacts remain untouched.

An enormous amount of water goes into manufacturing our clothes. To grow the cotton or other plant fibres needed, water that should be for drinking is diverted to irrigate crops. The toxic liquid products used to dye or print fabric wind up in rivers, completely untreated, polluting our seas and large continental rivers.

It is estimated that fashion is responsible for 20% of the wastewater produced in the world.

In Catalonia we are waking up to the importance of not only having water, but of good quality. Efforts are being made to reduce consumption and put non-essential uses on hold, trusting that rain will come and that technology will allow us to put treated water to more frequent use.

However, drought and water-related issues are not unique to the Mediterranean basin. Southeast Asian countries, the main producers of European consumers’ fashion, have trouble accessing uncontaminated fresh water and lack the infrastructure to produce treated wastewater. On top of that, they are territories that suffer severe flooding.

Fast fashion and excessive consumption of cheap, poor-quality clothing exacerbate the negative impacts that the clothes we wear have on the planet. The keys to keeping fashion on the path to sustainability are clean production and quality products, ensuring decent work and, as consumers, not succumbing to impulse buying