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We are a generation accustomed to disposability. Our tendencies to have the latest, on-trend item, and receive it instantaneously is viewed as a positive. Yet, this culture of throwaway consumerism is a damaging contributor to climate change, and is prevalent in the fast fashion industry.
Fast fashion is defined as a process where inexpensive clothing is made quickly by commercial clothing retailers in response to the latest fashion trends. The items are quickly put in the stores, quickly bought by consumers, and quickly put in the bin. But why exactly is fast fashion bad for our planet?
Recently, Censuswide conducted research for the children’s charity Barnardo’s. Research revealed that consumers were to shell out more than £700m on 11m items purchased for single-use summer holiday garments. A shocking statistic indeed.
In the UK, 300,000 tonnes of clothes end up in landfill each year. Most of our clothes are manufactured using synthetic materials like viscose, polyester and nylon, which are created from a type of plastic. When washed, these fabrics shed microfibres into the water, which filters into rivers and oceans. These microfibres pollute our environment and are consequently ingested by wildlife, infiltrating the food chain.
The Citarum River, located in Indonesia, is the world’s most polluted river.
Every day, no less than 20,000 tons of waste and 340,000 tons of wastewater, mostly from 2,000 textile factories, are disposed into the river. The river’s surface is covered by waste, rubbish and dead animal carcases. The water itself is coloured due to toxic chemicals. Almost 60% of fish are gone. Scientists have tested these waters, revealing that mercury, cadmium, lead and arsenic are floating inside. Exposure to these chemicals can cause detrimental health issues, such as neurological problems. What’s worse, millions of people are exposed to this large waterway.
Even cotton- a natural fibre- exhausts the planets natural resources. Cotton is extremely unsustainable because of its reliance on water and chemicals. A pair of jeans takes 20,000 litres of water before it’s put on the shop floor. Raw materials used to produce clothes need land and water, or removing of fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide is released throughout the clothing supply chain, and most chemical dyes and finishes may be toxic.
But fast fashion isn’t just causing distress to our planet- it’s also been a host for modern slavery. According to greenamerica.org;
With accelerated labour demands, some manufacturers subject workers to physical abuse, sexual harassment, poor work conditions, and forced overtime. These vicious and degrading aspects of everyday working life have created an environment where intimidation and terror are used to achieve higher production demands.
These facts were exposed in Global Labour Justices’ 2018 report, where 540 workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka came forward to reveal their reality, describing incidents involving threats and violent physical abuse. Many women have experienced gender-based violence, describing incidents where they have been beaten and kicked to the floor due to not meeting production targets. Working in a pressurised environment where there are high demands and low-income results in severe exploitation.
So what can we do to help? And how can we be more sustainable when packing and purchasing summer clothing for our travels? After all, we want to do as much as we can to avoid being a part of the 11 million people spending £700m this summer on clothing they will only wear once and then throw away…
When you place textiles in the general waste bin, you’re essentially paying for the clothing twice:
So make sure you get rid of old clothing mindfully! Don’t be blasé, otherwise it costs our local authorities millions in taxes!
You can find your nearest clothing and textile bank, using the Recycling Locator tool.
Article by WorkingAbroad Blog Writer Lucy Wooding