Lessening the impact of chemicals

The textile industry uses huge amounts of chemicals. New developements, in different areas including enzymes, are making headways in lessening the impact of these sometimes toxic chemicals.

Non-environmentally friendly cotton farms, tanneries, and dye houses are just a few examples of the many contributors to the negative chemical footprint—or toxicity—of apparel. Cotton cultivation, for example, uses approximately 11% of the world’s pesticides, though it is grown on less than 3% of the world’s arable land. The use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers during raw material cultivation, and the use of hazardous dyes, mechanical finishing processes, and nano-materials in the creation of apparel pose serious health risks to workers and consumers, as well as significant negative impacts on ecosystems. While chemical use and handling is subject to regulation, companies need to look beyond regulation and adopt a more sustainable long-term approach.

Our Vision
We strive to minimize the use of chemicals and hazardous materials in the apparel supply chain and move toward safer and more sustainable apparel production. The industry will demand less reliance on pesticides and other chemicals in crop cultivation—requesting that supply chain partners adopt leading approaches in sustainable agriculture, such as integrated pest management and other practices common to sustainable farming. Companies develop cleaner production techniques and replace chemical dyes with environmentally-friendly dye processes. Where the use of chemicals and hazardous materials is unavoidable, the apparel supply chain works together to train workers on the safe use of such materials, and the health risks and improper handling.

Recommendations

  • Map the key impacts of chemical use across the value chain to determine focus areas and problem points—particularly areas that can influenced through product design.
  • Commit to using certified sustainable materials as raw materials and product lines.
  • Review regulation and consolidate data collection to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, such as the EU REACH and RoHS directives.