When you think of pollution, you probably envision smoking coal power plants and raw sewage piped into our waterways. We don’t often think of the overall impact of the fashion industry on our planet. It's quite grim.

Fashion is a complicated business involving long and varied supply chains of production, raw material, textile manufacture, clothing construction, shipping, retail, use and ultimately disposal of the garment. The fashion carbon footprint is tremendous. Determining that footprint is an overwhelming challenge due to the immense variety from one garment to the next. A general assessment must take into account not only obvious pollutants—the pesticides used in cotton farming, the toxic dyes used in manufacturing and the great amount of waste discarded clothing creates—but also the extravagant amount of natural resources used in extraction, farming, harvesting, processing, manufacturing and shipping.

Today it’s estimated that the fashion industry consumes around 1500 billion litres of ground water per year. The industry is today the largest contributor to surface water pollution in for example Bangladesh. The consumption level of the textile industry is also one of the causes for the rapid decline in groundwater levels around Dhaka. Aside from the direct health impacts of water contamination, there is evidence to suggest detrimental impacts on the production of agriculture, aquaculture and livestock.

Source: International Water Week

Interview with Professor Abu Naser Khan