The production of textiles is an incredibly water-intensive process. For example, the production process for the crops required to make one cotton t-shirt gulps up between 2,700 and 3,250 litres of water. Given that the earth's freshwater sources are slowly but surely drying up, this level of water consumption is extremely concerning. Not only is the textile industry one of the top ranking industries for water consumption, it's also one of the top ranking industries with respect to water pollution.
There's a vast amount of chemicals involved in the textile production process. This issue spans from pesticides, insecticides and unnatural fertilisers used in growing the crops required to make textiles, as well as the chemicals used to dye, treat, and wash fabrics. Whats more, innumerable numbers of chemicals are required to maintain fabrics made from animal products, like wool and leather, in order to prevent them from decomposing. These procedures rarely ever take place in a closed-loop process, so the chemicals tend to run off into our waterways, causing immense pollution. It has been estimated that, every year, roughly 43 million tonnes of chemicals are used in the production of textiles. Very often, these chemicals contain carcinogens and other substances which cause ill health, and they cause irreversible environmental damage and contribute towards the climate crisis. All in all, textile production is a dangerously chemically-intensive procedure.
Synthetic fibres are a world favourite because of their often far too accessible price point. Synthetics are, quite literally, made of plastic. When these fabrics are washed, their fibres - bit by bit - break up and shed micro-plastics which are consequently swept away into our oceans and waterways. So these cheap fabrics are one of the biggest culprits for the environmental devastation and loss of life caused micro-plastic pollution.
Fast fashion revolves around cutting corners, crazy consumptions, and the apparent need for newness. Because of the production of low-grade garments, there's no wonder that so much of it ends up in landfills. It's been estimated that, in the uk, more than 300,000 tonnes of used clothing gets sent to landfills each and every year. While some of these clothes may be made from biodegradable, natural fibres and fabrics, the vast majority tend to be synthetics, like polyester, which takes more than 200 years to biodegrade.