With the autumn season well under way and winter coming right behind it, you might be getting ready to pull your warmer clothes out of storage. Unfortunately, you might be feeling a little out of style in your older clothes (which coincidentally is exactly what the fashion industry wants), but have you ever thought of what the real price is for new clothing?
Now, we aren’t necessarily talking about the money you pay at the counter; the environmental cost of new clothes may actually be much higher. A new article that has been published in Chemical & Engineering News(C&EN) discusses just how much the fashion industry affects the world around us.
Alex Scott, senior editor at C&EN, explains in the article that there are a number of different pollutants used when making clothes. These include dyes, fixing agents, bleaches, solvents, detergents, and other various materials. While using these agents isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the way in which they’re disposed of can often hit well below the mark.
Many companies simply allow these pollutants to wash away into wastewater systems which empty their contents into nearby rivers. These compounds can often be untreated before being released, which can have damaging effects on the environment and those that come into contact with them. Records produced by environmental groups show that nearby residents of textile factories can often become sick. Productivity at local farms also tends to drop as a result of these dirty practices.
Luckily, some clothing manufacturers are acknowledging this problem and working toward fixing it. While the timeline leaves something to be desired, these companies have pledged to stop dumping their toxins into waterways by 2020.
In the meantime, many chemical firms are attempting to come up with products that meet the emerging green standards of the fashion industry. OrganoClick, a Swedish company, has developed a waterproofing compound that is made from biomaterials. These could replace current waterproofing products, some of which may contain carcinogens, according to Scott’s article. The company Archroma, which is well-known in the textile industry for its chemical production, is selling dyes that are made from natural products, such as waste nutshells and rosemary leaves.
While these alternatives, and others like them, are a good step forward, they may only be as effective as consumers allow them to be. The cost of producing environmentally safe products is almost always higher than making unsafe ones, which will invariably drive up their prices at retail stores. So, though the current generation may be more environmentally conscious than previous ones, their choice to buy more expensive products may ultimately decide how much the textile industry cleans itself up.