Fashion Industry Causing Massive Environmental Degradation, Warns UN Report

UN launches drive to highlight environmental cost of staying fashionable.

Governments should formulate strict laws for the fashion industry to comply with the environmental protection guidelines

Syed Ali Mujtaba | Clarion India

THE fashion industry is the biggest culprit of environmental degradation. The statistical numbers from the fashion industry are shocking as to how much the fashion industry is responsible for degrading our environment.

According to a United Nations report, the fashion industry is one of the main dark spots responsible for climatic change. The UN report says that all beautifying products of the fashion industry are responsible for environmental degradation.

The fashion industries use 23% of chemicals in the world and more than 10 thousand chemicals are used in the preparation of different beautifying products. Among them, only 11% are certified products; rest 89 percent are unapproved. The textile industry is one of the main components of the fashion industry which uses one-kilogram of chemicals to prepare one kilogram of textiles.

Textile industries are responsible for the emission of greenhouse gases. As per UN report, the textile industry contributes 8% of greenhouse gases emission to the atmosphere. The textile industry every year uses 70 million barrels of fuel oil for manufacturing clothing and some 70 million trees are cut to manufacture 30% of artificial silk. Similarly, 20% of water pollutants have their origin in textile industries.

The fashion industry uses 93 billion gallons of water every year. According to a UN report, 20 tons of freshwater is used in manufacturing one ton of cotton. Some two thousand gallons of water are used for preparing one piece of jeans.

Textile industries produce 1.5 trillion wastes yearly. Some 85% of clothes are thrown as waste that makes 5.2% of total waste cloths yearly. According to reports, the fashion industry is responsible for one truck of wastes thrown on earth every second. The projection is the fashion industry will be responsible for the accumulation of 12 billion tons of waste on earth by 2050.

The fashion industry manufactures different types of face washes, shampoos, body lotions, shaving creams, and shaving lotions, etc. These products are washed in bathrooms and 50% among them can’t be recycled. They flow with water through drains and rivers and ultimately reach oceans. The face washes contain minute plastic particles that are non-recyclable and harmful to aquatic life. Fashion industries worldwide contribute a total of 20% of effluents that are harmful to the water bodies.

The usage of plastics by the fashion industry is abnormal. The fashion industries use 85% of plastic in the world.  Yearly, nearly one 190,000 tons of plastic are used by the fashion industry. The fashion industry manufactures more than 120 billion plastic products. And nearly 27 billion plastic bottles reach oceans every year.

The fear is if we are going to use these beautifying items at the same rate, our rivers and oceans will be completely filled with non-recyclable wastes. Such wasteful lifestyles of human beings need to be checked.  The moot point is: do we need to follow the fashion trends at the cost of our existence.

Therefore, there is a need to look at the fashion industry from an environmental perspective. Textile and other products need to be recycled and reused. Similarly, minimum or no plastic products should be used in beautifying items.

As long as our lifestyle will not change and we continue to chase the latest fashion trends, we will continue to harm our environment. So there is a need to change our behaviour and change our lifestyle to save our environment.

Governments should formulate strict laws for the fashion industry to comply with the environmental protection guidelines. The final word on this is that consciousness and awareness has to be generated for saving our environment from the degradation from the fashion industry.

In this, environmental communication plays a huge role. It helps to understand the environmental issues and serves two purposes. One it informs, persuades, educates, and alerts about the environmental issues. Second, it examines the people’s perceptions of the world and how these perceptions shape human relations with the environment. The ultimate goal of environmental communication is to save the earth from environmental degradation.


Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at


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