Clean Tech

Trendy clothes that are gentle on the earth

Updated on: Oct 31, 2021
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The textile industry needs to find ways to thrive without environmental damage

Thanks to e-commerce and the ease of business it facilitates, the textile industry has grown remarkably. Fast fashion that captures popular imagination dictates that new trends must hit the market virtually every day.

But the glitter and glam come with a heavy toll on the environment. Historically, apparel brands and textile manufacturers have been guilty of using large volumes of water for dyeing, washing, and printing. Add to that the post-consumer waste choking landfills, waterbodies and drainage systems, causing soil pollution.

A circular economy has emerged to help the textile and garment industry prosper without excessive environmental damage. The Circular Apparel Policy Innovation Lab, a project of the Delhi-based think tank Centre for Responsible Business (CRB), stresses on a circular economy in which materials and energy circulate in loops within the value chain. It is opposed to the take-make-dispose linear system.

Over the last decade the water used for dyeing has been cut by 40-50 per cent. And textile clusters are considering using treated municipal water to reduce the use of freshwater. But more needs to be done.

Says Ramanuj Mitra, Senior Programme Officer at CRB: “Brands and manufacturers are taking cognisance of the problems, especially those created by fast fashion. Brands have skilling programmes for workers. R&D has yielded better technologies. There is now carbon dioxide-based dyeing, where water is not required.”

But the word “sustainability” is often used as a greenwashing tool. Says Ananthoo, co-founder of Tula India, a sustainable brand: “There are brands which claim to be sustainable but only use 5 per cent organic cotton while the rest is BT cotton, harmful for the environment.”

At the Tirupur textile and garment cluster, near Coimbatore, a zero liquid discharge regulation is in force — about 96 per cent of the process water, salts and dyes is recovered.

Such innovations must be replicated. But, more importantly, customers must insist on sustainable clothing. They must also think twice before discarding clothes and going on a buying spree.

Being eco-friendly must become trendy.

Published on October 31, 2021

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