Textile and denim pollution

Posted by on ago 23, 2010 in Resources, Sustainability Mission, Video | 7 comments

Textile and denim pollution

Textile pollution is getting some mainstream attention. CNN recently posted an article on its website about the pollution problems in China’s Pearl River delta. While the communist nation’s pollution woes have been highlighted in the media before, CNN’s piece goes a step further, specifically demonstrating how textile and denim dyeing is a major cause of the Pearl’s pollution.

In the town of Xintang, textile and denim dyeing is a big business. According to the Chinese government, Xintang produces 200 million pairs of jeans or roughly half of the jeans sold in the U.S. annually.

Denim starts as white cotton thread which is boiled in giant vats of indigo-blue dye before being woven into fabric. The water used in the dyeing process needs to be drained, but instead of treating and recycling all of  it (which is expensive), the wastewater flows through pipes into the Pearl River. The pollution is so bad that local residents and satellite images alike reveal that the river water is black in areas adjacent to denim factories.

“The number one problem (China) face(s) is water pollution,” Deborah Seligsohn of the World Resources Institute told CNN. “The textile industry is one of China’s larger industries and one that uses a lot of water, so it’s traditionally had a lot of wastewater problems.”

The Chinese government knows this is a problem; we know it’s a problem; and if you follow this blog, you know it’s a problem. Now readers of CNN.com know it too, and that’s an indication that the issue is gaining wider recognition among the public.

Companies that source goods from offending dye-houses should recognize the potential for textile pollution to become a public relations nightmare. We believe water pollution will be the new sweatshop issue for the industry–garnering mainstream media attention, and eventually, spurring change.

Top executives whose companies rely on those dye-houses may assume they would be shielded from blame and bad PR if a controversy erupts over water pollution–after all, they might argue that they are merely customers, and don’t own the dye-houses. We suggest they talk to Nike about how that defense worked a few years ago.

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7 Responses to “Textile and denim pollution”

  1. Very good suggestions, personally I’m gonna have to bookmark this and come back to it. Do you have any feedback on your most recent post though?

  2. Hi there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Looking at this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept preaching about this. I most certainly will send this article to him. Fairly certain he will have a very good read. Many thanks for sharing!

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